Sunday, August 30, 2015
Daily Times Editorial Aug 31, 2015
ECP in hot soup On Saturday, August 29, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), flush with its three ‘victories’ before the Election Tribunals (ETs), held a consultation of its top leadership at its secretariat in Lahore. Following the confab, the PTI’s chief Imran Khan addressed the party workers and announced that if the four provincial members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) did not resign, and if the Chief Election Commissioner did not take a decision in this regard within one month, the PTI would hold a sit-in in Islamabad before the ECP’s office. Imran Khan asserted these provincial ECP members had no moral grounds to continue in office after the findings of the Judicial Commission and the ETs, which converged on the irregularities and lapses in the conduct of the elections, for which the provincial members are being held responsible. Further, he said they had even less grounds to continue after 21 parties accused them of ‘rigging’ in the 2013 elections. Now this may be Imran Khan’s usual penchant for exaggeration, since the count of parties actually accusing the ECP members of ‘rigging’ are few, certainly not 21. One of those that have belatedly come out in opportunist fashion to join the ‘rigging’ bandwagon is the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). It now says fair polls are not possible under the present four provincial incumbents of the ECP. The party says it had only accepted the results of the 2013 elections in the interests of the continuity of the democratic system despite reservations about the outcome of the polls. Not only has it now added its voice to the PTI’s demand for the resignation of the four provincial members of the ECP, it has announced that it is abandoning the ‘reconciliation’ policy it had been following since 2008. The argument of the PPP is that while the reconciliation policy had strengthened the democratic system, it had grievously damaged the party. The PPP now seeks a political alliance of all other parties except the PML-N. Whether this has anything to do with the current spate of arrests or the threat of more arrests of top leaders of the PPP in Karachi or not cannot be ascertained. It is of course the right of any party to reconsider and even reverse its policies. But with due respect, if the PPP deludes itself that its woes are owed only to the erstwhile reconciliation policy, this will not serve its purpose of finding its way back to its former glory. There are deeper reasons than the conciliatory policies of the past that explain the party’s decline in its fortunes. First and foremost, the abandonment (even in Benazir’s time) of the party’s founding pro-poor ideology in favour of the fashionable neo-liberal paradigm and its subsequent marginalisation under Asif Zardari of its committed workers are the two sides of the same coin that explain the party’s decline. Competing on the terrain of the neo-liberal paradigm has rendered the PPP toothless and directionless. Although Imran Khan has declared, despite his demand for the resignation of the four provincial members of the ECP, to take part in the upcoming by-polls on the three seats upended by the ETs (perhaps four?) as well as the impending local body polls in Punjab and Sindh, he has asserted in his usual abrasive style that the PTI will install cameras in every polling station and train its cadres to ensure fair and free polls. A word of caution: monitoring the polls is the right of every party, but interference in the workings of the ECP is not. If the import of this statement is to ensure elections according to the PTI’s whims and wishes, this would defeat the perfectly credible purpose of ensuring fair polls. As it is, there are rumours of three of the four provincial members of the ECP considering resigning amidst the furore over their handling of the 2013 elections. The ECP is meeting today (Monday) to consider the situation. If the three or even four provincial members do resign, the whole programme of the by-polls and local bodies elections will once again be thrown up into the air. To avoid a long hiatus, new members must then be appointed to replace any outgoing ones as soon as possible so that the country can embark once more on the road to completing the electoral tasks.