The tensions between the incumbent government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) do not seem to be coming to an end. After the ruling PTI bulldozed the controversial electoral reforms bills, which included the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and i-voting for overseas Pakistanis in the upcoming general elections, in the joint session of the National Assembly held last month, it is now facing agitations from the ECP in the implementation of the same. The incumbent government provided a timeline of delivery of EVMs to begin from June 15, 2022 and completed by June 15, 2023. But the commission has refused to follow the given timeline and decided to work on the schedule its committees provide.
The rift between the two had been brewing for sometime now. First, the ECP had refused to implement EVMs stating 37 objections to its introduction. However, the ruling PTI had passed the bill for its usage through the joint session and also threatened to hold the commission’s funds unless it devises a plan for the installation of EVMs for 2023 polls. It must be noted that federal ministers had also accused the ECP for being biased in favour of the opposition parties only to tender written apologies later. But despite that, the government seems to be in no mood to back out from its ongoing confrontation with the ECP.
Prime Minister Imran Khan went on a one-day tour to Peshawar despite the commission warning him of it being a ‘violation of election code’. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be holding its local government elections from December 19 to January 16. “After the issuance of election schedule, the president, prime minister, or any other holder of public office shall not visit the area of any local council to announce any development scheme or to canvass or campaign for any candidate,” read the ECP statement. However, the premier visited the provincial capital to inaugurate a health insurance scheme.
Perhaps the government must be reminded that its ongoing rift with the ECP poses a threat to the country’s electoral system, which is in fact a basis for any democracy. The high-handed attitude of the ruling party can lead to dire consequences for the upcoming polls. Only an empowered ECP can truly make the electoral process ‘free and fair’.