Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Daily Times Editorial June 3, 2015

KP ruction The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Local Government (LG) elections continue to hit the headlines with charges and counter-charges of rigging and mismanagement, putting the role of the KP Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) into the spotlight. First and foremost, the arrest of ANP secretary general Mian Iftikhar Hussain on charges of being responsible for the killing of a PTI worker in Pabbi has taken a new twist, with the father of the slain worker deposing in court that he had been ‘pressurised’ to name Mian Iftikhar in the case. There is no clarity from the reports who pressurised him, but the statement has given rise to more suspicions that Mian Iftikhar is being politically victimised in the matter. Leaders of political parties and even the prime minister have condemned the arrest. Latest reports say Mian Iftikhar has been bailed out of police custody, but the bitter aftertaste of what is looking increasingly like a manipulated victimisation of a political rival will not quickly or easily go away. The police have added to the confusion surrounding the affair by claiming it whisked Mian Iftikhar away into protective custody to save him from an angry mob baying for his blood. If this is so, why was he then charged with murder and his physical remand obtained from the court? The police have some explaining to do regarding their inexplicable and unacceptable double facedness. And let us not forget in this context Imran Khan’s repetition ad nauseam that the KP police are autonomous. Neither, it seems, will the blame game between the ECP and the PTI government go away so easily. Each is blaming the other for the violence that attended the polling. The ECP says law and order remains the responsibility of the provincial government while LG elections are held, while Imran Khan and Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak are passing the buck onto the ECP, claiming they had ‘surrendered’ the police and therefore security and law and order to the ECP. The correct position is probably what the ECP has delineated, that this is a joint responsibility. If that argument is accepted, it seems fair to apportion at least part of the blame to both of the two protagonists. Imran Khan has done well to suspend the basic party membership of provincial minister Ali Amin Gandapur for interfering with and disrupting polling in his home district of Dera Ismail Khan. Mr Gandapur first tried to pull a ‘scarlet pimpernel’ act on the police by disappearing through a back door of his house while the police waited in front to arrest him, but was later persuaded by the chief minister to surrender to the police. He is now under arrest and charged with the election misdemeanour. Complaints about rigging and mismanagement meanwhile continue to flow in thick and fast from Peshawar and other parts of KP, including the recommendation of the returning officers to hold re-polling in 26 Peshawar stations. The ECP has responded to the massive questioning of the polls process by announcing it will set up one election tribunal for each district, to be headed by a retired district and sessions judge, which will have to dispose of all complaints within 45 days. Many parties, including the PPP, ANP, JUI-F, QWP, PML-N, and even the PTI’s coalition ally Jamaat-i-Islami have complained and protested against rigging allegedly carried out by the PTI government. Whatever the outcome after the event of the to and fro accusations between the ECP and PTI regarding responsibility for the violence on polling day, now that the voting hurly burly is done, what excuse can the PTI government offer for the continuing violence between political rivals and their supporters to date? The massive exercise of holding LG polls in the troubled KP province has indeed been completed, but the manner of their holding leaves much to be desired and raises serious questions about the coming Punjab and Sindh LG elections. The ECP’s contention that it had recommended a phase-wise holding of the LG polls in KP, which it says the PTI government rejected, may by now be seen as the only way to avoid a similar ruction in the LG polls in Punjab and Sindh, both bigger and more thickly populated than KP.

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