The ECP and Election Saga

Written by The Frontier Post

The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Sikandar Sultan Raja has warned of strict action if the code of conduct was breached during upcoming by-polls in Punjab. The warning comes, after the Chief Election Commissioner chaired a meeting regarding the polling arrangements and law and order situation in the province ahead of the by-elections. The Chief Election Commissioner, through the chief secretary, made it clear to the provincial government that the code of conduct will not be tolerated and criminal proceedings will be initiated against the law abusers and the Punjab government has been asked to ensure the security of polling staff, material, and polling stations on D-day. The Chief Election Commissioner categorically told the polling staff and supporting institutions that they are the servant of the state and discharge duties without any political pressure.

The by-Election on 20 vacant general seats of the Punjab Assembly is scheduled to be held on July 17. Earlier, the ECP de-seated 25 dissident MPAs of the PTI in Punjab for voting for Hamza Shehbaz while going contrary to the party policy in the backdrop of a no-confidence motion against PTI’s Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. These seats were grabbed by the PTI in 2018’s General Election, which now became decisive for the follow-up run for the Chief Minister Punjab, which is scheduled for July 22 between ruling Hamza Shehbaz and former Speaker Pervaiz Elahi. The overall political environment of the country is fragile and dainty because of an ongoing political uproar and agitation campaign by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and allies against the coalition government on the issue of regime change coupled with rising inflation in the country. After the center, Punjab is the most affected province by this political ruckus and has continuously fluttered in the grip of a constitutional crisis over the past three months. Hamza-Elahi’s wrestling for the Chief Ministership has reached the Supreme Court, which ordered the holding of a free and transparent election for the new Chief Minister on July 22.

In fact, the political battle of warring parties entered a critical phase, and with the de-notification of dissident MPs, the Election Commission sent both parties to the public. Now public will decide who should rule the province for the remaining one-year term. Currently, the Election Commission is taking every step to ensure transparency and peaceful conduct of the by-polls and for that purpose, it has asked the Provincial government to provide credible security to the polling stations, polling staff, and materials with the maintenance of law and order in the constituencies. The Election Commission is also considering the deployment of the Army troops and Rangers at the sensitive polling stations during Punjab by-polls.

Historically, the electoral process in the country had always been dented by controversies and questioned by the contesting candidates as well as by the independent observers throughout history, because of the ill-resourced Election authority, ill-trained, and temporarily hired polling staff, rigging by the political parties and government interference. Previously, the polling staff eluded due to fog in NA-75 by-elections, while authorities were attacked in KP local bodies poll, and election staff had been threatened in the recent election in Sindh. Therefore, the Election Commission should take concrete steps to improve the credibility of the institution and electoral process, besides making the polling staff accountable, prosecuting false criticism, and minimizing the role of Provincial and Federal governments in the process.

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The Frontier Post