As ECP seems in no mood to hold polls, calls from different quarters urging it to submit to law — but everyone knows who is behind ECP’s so-called powers

As ECP seems in no mood to hold polls, calls from different quarters urging it to submit to law -- but everyone knows who is behind ECP's so-called powers

By Irum Saleem

The chief election commissioner, Sikandar Sultan Raja, seems to be holding the Constitution in very scant regard, Dawn says in it’s editorial. But the paper seems to have forgotten that it is not Raja who is calling the shots but someone else…he is just executing orders, doesn’t he?

  The paper says with the unlawful and unjustifiable delay of long overdue elections to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab assemblies already to his credit, it is clear the constitutional timeline for general elections will not be followed either, thanks in part to the PDM government’s ‘timely’ approval of census results and the excuse of fresh delimitation of constituencies it has provided.

    “Perhaps one may have viewed these deviations from constitutional timelines a little more charitably had there been a greater sense of obligation to the people and their rights on display. Instead, the ECP under Mr Raja continues to act as if it has no inclination to restore order to the political arena at the earliest possible.”

    Raja had been extended a meeting invitation by President Arif Alvi so that the two could sit down and work out a date for the upcoming general election.

The Constitution accords the president this privilege under Article 48(5): he must appoint a date for general elections to the National Assembly within 90 days of its dissolution.

However, Mr Raja curtly turned down the invite the next day, dismissing the president’s overture as being of “scant consequence” after recent changes to the election law.

   Was there a need to be so confrontational? He could have met the head of state out of simple courtesy and conveyed the same in person. Mr Raja seemingly felt his time would be better spent discussing Pakistan’s elections with the US ambassador instead.

It must be pointed out that the recent changes to the Elections Act, which Mr Raja cited in his letter as justification to turn down the president’s invitation, can and will be contested.

Some legal observers have pointed out that the amendment to Section 57 of the law — which the commissioner “understands and believes” gives the ECP exclusive power to set a date for general elections — remains subject to and subservient to the Constitution, which explicitly gives this power to the president of Pakistan.

“In the presence of this glaring contradiction, should the commissioner not have exercised more prudence? One is inclined to recall the Supreme Court’s admonishment of the ECP in the Punjab elections delay case.

In its detailed judgement on the matter, the country’s top court had chided the election watchdog for confusing its duties with ‘non-existent’ powers when it acted out of order to delay elections beyond the 90-day deadline prescribed in the Constitution.

It appears that those confusions have yet to dissipate. Mr Raja should realise that he is under a heavy obligation. The ECP cannot continue to dodge the Constitution and expect to get away with it. It must submit to the law.

That is what the paper talk about on idealistic manner but the ground reality is far far away from the reality of this country. PAK DESTINY

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