Long-awaited polls must be credible

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has finally announced that the general elections in the country will be held in the last week of January 2024, while the detailed schedule will be released after the initial list of the delimitations of the constituencies is finalized. During a recent meeting, the ECP reviewed progress on the delimitation of the constituencies and decided to release the final list on November 30 after hearing objections and proposals regarding the preliminary delimitations. The general elections will be held in the last week of January 2024 after a 54-day election campaign programme following issuance of the final list of constituencies.

The country has witnessed months-long political turmoil and internal choas after the PDM coalition government relinquished its charge and an interim setup took the ruins of the government. The nation was prepared for the general election but CCI’s approval of the census results prompted the issue of fresh delimitation and updated voter list to make the electoral exercise trustworthy and credible. The ECP’s decision on fresh delimitation raised suspicions and prompted propaganda regarding an early arrangement of nationwide polls, while a flood of rumours broke out about the tenure and intent of the interim rulers that cast a gloomy picture of the country’s future and democracy. Meanwhile, the political leaders and civic groups also played a heinous role in spreading uncertainty and intensifying choas in the country through media hype and unreal verbosity. Although elections should be held within 90 days in case of premature dissolution of the assemblies, the release of census results merits updated voter lists and fresh delimitation to give an apparent validity to the electoral process and timely addressal of post-election disputes of the politicians.

The country is slowly heading toward the dearly awaited election season despite the impatience of the public and the urgency of the leaders. The election regulating authority taking concrete legal and administrative steps to pave the way for the grand finale between the major civic groups and their supporters. It has published the updated voter lists that confirmed the inclusion of nearly 2 crore fresh voters while the drawing of fresh electoral constituencies is in the final stage. The reports suggest that the exercise of delimitation would not only change the demographic composition of each electoral district but likely bring vital changes in the result of the forthcoming polls which causes concerns in political parties and their leadership.

As the Electoral Watchdog has announced a time frame, the flood of rumours and propaganda of the civic groups and their lobbying outposts must come to a calm and all stakeholders should commence their election campaign in good faith, positive spirit and contribution. The ECP has allocated sufficient time for civic activities and authority is in consultation with political parties to finalize code of conduct for the general elections. Unfortunately, the ECP faces scarcity of resources, shortage of manpower and uses adhoc staff borrowed from other departments who often demonstrate disloyalty and slackness, and cause embarrassment for the election commission. Multiple incidents of complicity and poll rigging happened in the past in the garb of fog, unserviceability of vehicles and poor signal of communication networks which highlighted the loopholes in the system and exposed poor management of election authority. For this time, the election commission must set a strict discipline regime for the election staff, and impose tough penalties for political leaders who ever violate the law and sabotage the electoral process, so the sanctity and credibility of the election process can be ensured at all costs.