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Thursday, February 15, 2024

The government’s futile campaign against ECP

The writer discusses the government's decision to challenge the ECP in the Supreme Court. The majority of four judges answered the reference by denying the government position. According to the writer, this campaign against the ECP will be damaging for the government.

The government is considering moving the Supreme Court to initiate the contempt proceedings against the Chief Election Commissioner and members of the Election Commission if they didn’t resign from their offices. The Attorney General has already initiated the process.

The Senate’s Election on 3rd March has been marred by multiple controversies all leading to a dismal conclusion that political parties are unable, or unwilling, to frame the basic rules of senate election and then adhere to them in letter and spirit.

The Senate elections also illustrated our inability to hold a simple and straight forward election. A sum of a total of 99 votes was to be cast in the upper House of Parliament and not in some backwater polling station. The senate secretariat could not even manage this with consensus. If this is the state of our electoral capabilities, how would we be able to hold national elections in the near future?

Read more: Senate Elections showed we are losing our moral compass, PM Khan

For the general guidance of people, to hold an election for Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Senate, the Secretary of Senate was responsible under senate act of section 9, not Election Commission of Pakistan as quoted by some anchors of media houses.

Disagreements circling the Senate elections

In answering the reference asking whether Senate elections are held under the constitution and hence by secret balloting, the Supreme Court solved a political problem for the government. Enter the Attorney General, who gave his opinion to the cabinet that Senate elections are not held under the constitution, and hence exempt from the Article 226 secrecy requirement.

Read more: Chairman Senate Election: Can parliament’s proceedings be challenged in Court?

He reportedly advised the Prime Minister to send a presidential reference asking the Supreme Court if it concurred with his opinion. The majority of four judges answered the reference by denying the government position. Senate elections are held under the Constitution.

It was the Election Commission statement in the Supreme Court on changing the rules on secret balloting in the Senate elections that brought the conflict ahead. It was simply a legal position on the part of the Election Commission that the voting rule could only be changed through a constitutional amendment.

The government is not happy with the argument as it wanted the Election Commission to follow the government lines. Such expectation from the election commission whose main responsibility is to ensure fair and free elections under article 218 is beyond comprehension.

Read more: Prime Minister castigated election commission

The credibility of the Election Commission is most critical for strengthening the democratic process in the country. Such a futile campaign against the Election Commission of Pakistan who has the same powers as the Supreme Court will not only damage the government, it will also harm the democratic process in the government, and Article 5 and Article 204 may be kept in view.

Kanwar Dilshad, former Secretary to the Election Commission of Pakistan, worked in the constitutional institution for over 30 years. He is currently the chairperson for the National Democratic Foundation; the foundation’s work is to grow and strengthen democracy in Pakistan. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.