Friday, October 31, 2014

Daily Times Editorial Nov 1, 2014

Procrastination galore The Supreme Court (SC) it seems, has finally run out of patience with the politicians and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), and rightly so. A three-member bench headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Nasirul Mulk resumed hearing of the case of non-appointment of a regular Chief Election Commissioner (CEC). Showing that it was not amused by the endless procrastination of the politicians, the SC rejected the plea of Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah to be given another three months to settle in consultation with Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif the vexed issue of appointing a consensus CEC. The last regular CEC, Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim had resigned in July last year, after which acting CECs drawn from the SC have been filling in. Currently, Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali of the SC is serving in that capacity. Rejecting the arguments of Khursheed Shah’s counsel Aitzaz Ahsan that the uncertainty in and outside parliament over the last two months required further and meaningful consultations across the board for the appointment of a regular CEC, the SC imposed a fresh deadline of November 13 to complete the task. The SC said it would withdraw Justice Jamali after that date. Aitzaz also argued that the process of electoral reform that has (haltingly) been started could imply a change in the method of consultation for the post of CEC. The court struck that argument down too by asserting that any constitutional amendment that flowed from the electoral reforms process (itself an open-ended endeavour) would be dealt with as and when it arose and that the appointment be made under the current constitutional provisions. The CJP reminded the petitioner that the post had been lying vacant since August 13, 2013 and that it was a constitutional obligation, further delay in which could not be allowed. On inquiry by the court, the Attorney General deposed that he had no instructions from the government on the matter but that all would be done according to the orders of the SC. This vague reply incensed Khursheed Shah, who complained later that he had moved the petition in consultation with the government but the latter had failed to support him before the court. Now Khursheed Shah is insisting that the PM send him a short list of three names in order to meet the SC’s deadline. In similar vein, the same bench rejected the ECP’s plea for being allowed nine months for the purpose of delimitation and preparations for the Local Bodies (LB) elections in Punjab and Sindh. The SC ordered the ECP to submit a comprehensive report on delimitation and provincial legislation regarding the LB polls by December 1. Whereas previously the LB elections had to be held by the provincial governments, now after the 18th Amendment, the ECP was charged with the task. However, before it could take up the matter, legislation was required by the provincial Assemblies to transfer these powers to the ECP. Procrastination in this regard on the part of the Punjab and Sindh governments finally brought down on their heads the wrath of the SC and they hurriedly resorted to issuing Ordinances for the purpose, which have since been endorsed by the respective provincial Assemblies. The way therefore now lies clear for the ECP to buckle down to the job. For it to then ask the court for nine months to complete the task yet again must have aroused a level of ire on the bench that can only be imagined. It is a reflection perhaps of the paralysis that decision making by the government of PM Nawaz Sharif has fallen into in recent months that urgent matters such as the SC-ordered appointment of a regular CEC still awaits. Similarly, the humming and hawing by the ECP with regard to LB polls defies explanation. It is a sad comment on the state of affairs that it takes the SC to crack the whip on these matters before the immovable object of political vested interest and administrative inertia is compelled to yield before an irresistible force.

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