The Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the holding of provincial elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, overturning a previous decision by the Election Commission of Pakistan to delay the polls due to concerns over electoral fraud and manipulation. The ruling has raised questions about the state of democracy in Pakistan and the urgent need for political reforms.
The Supreme Court’s decision to order the holding of provincial elections has been met with mixed reactions from political parties and civil society groups. On the one hand, the decision has been hailed as a victory for democracy and the rule of law, as it upholds the constitutional right of the people to elect their representatives. On the other hand, some critics have raised concerns about the timing of the elections and the potential for further electoral fraud and manipulation.
Former prime minister and leader of the opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) Imran Khan have welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to order the provincial elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within 90 days. PTI had been demanding the elections for several months, arguing that the delay was a violation of the constitution and an attempt by the ruling party to cling to power.
Following the verdict, Imran took to his Twitter handle and wrote, “it was responsibility of SC to uphold Constitution & they have valiantly done that through their judgement today.”
He said that the party is suspending its ‘Jail Bharo Tehreek’ and moving forward with election campaigns in KP and Punjab.
On the other hand Federal Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said that the Supreme Court (SC) ruling in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) election delay petition was ‘rejected’ by a majority 4-3 split.
While talking to the media, Tarar added that there is no need to review the decision of the suo motu case as it is a “clear decision” that does not require explanation.
“It was essentially a seven-member bench and two judges had voluntarily recused themselves,” Tarar added.
The previous delay in the elections was due to concerns raised by the Election Commission of Pakistan over the use of electronic voting machines, which were deemed vulnerable to hacking and tampering. The Supreme Court’s decision to order the elections to be held despite these concerns has been criticized by some as a rush to judgment, and raises questions about the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.
The judgement is likely to have far-reaching political implications in Pakistan. It comes at a time when the country is grappling with a host of economic and political challenges, including rising inflation, a weak currency, and a widening trade deficit. The opposition parties have been critical of the government’s handling of these issues and have accused it of mismanagement and corruption.
The court’s decision to order the elections is likely to give the opposition parties a boost ahead of the polls. It will also put pressure on the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) to improve its performance in these two provinces, which are considered to be its strongholds. The ruling party will need to work hard to counter the opposition’s narrative and convince the voters that it is capable of addressing their concerns.
PTI is likely to mount a vigorous campaign in the run-up to the polls. They will try to capitalize on the discontent among the voters and convince them that they are the better alternative to the ruling party. The ruling party will need to respond to the opposition’s criticism and put forward a convincing plan to address the voters’ concerns.
Imran Khan, center, gestures to the crowd in Karachi. (AFP File Photo)
Key takeaways from the verdict
- In Punjab, because the governor did not dissolve the assembly, the president’s April 9 date is ‘constitutionally competent’
- If polls can’t be held within 90 days, ECP must propose a date that ‘deviates to the barest minimum’ from the deadline
- After consultation with ECP, the president will announce the date for the Punjab polls
- In KP, because the governor acted on CM’s advice and dissolved the assembly, he is bound to consult with ECP to announce date and the president’s date is invalid
- ECP must be ‘proactively’ available to the president or governor for consultation on dates
Options for the Coalition PDM Government
The coalition PDM government, which is made up of a number of opposition parties, has a range of options for pursuing political reforms in Pakistan. One option is to work with the Election Commission of Pakistan to implement reforms aimed at ensuring free, fair, and transparent elections. This could involve the introduction of new legislation or the creation of an independent body to oversee the electoral process.
The country has a long history of electoral fraud and manipulation, with political parties and their supporters using a range of tactics to sway the outcome of elections. These include ballot-stuffing, intimidation of voters, and tampering with election results.
In order to address these issues, there is a need for political reforms that focus on ensuring free, fair, and transparent elections. This could include measures such as the introduction of biometric voter verification, increased transparency in the electoral process, and the use of independent observers to monitor polling stations.
The upcoming elections will be closely watched by both domestic and international observers. They will be a test of Pakistan’s democracy and its ability to hold free and fair elections. The government will need to ensure that the polls are conducted in a transparent and impartial manner and that all parties are given an equal opportunity to compete.
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