It is with a heavy heart that Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja has chosen to decline a meeting request from President Arif Alvi, aimed at discussing the all-important matter of the upcoming general elections’ date. In response to President Arif Alvi’s letter seeking a meeting to “fix an appropriate date” for the upcoming general elections, CEC Raja stated that participating in such a meeting would hold “scant importance” following the recent changes to the election law. This stance serves to highlight the growing concerns surrounding the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) under the leadership of the current CEC, which appears to be employing delaying tactics in crucial electoral processes.
This is not the first instance where the ECP, led by the incumbent CEC, has seemingly become a tool to prolong the electoral process. Earlier this year, elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were delayed due to decisions made by the Election Commission. President Arif Alvi’s invitation for a meeting regarding the general elections was a reasonable step in ensuring the timely conduct of democratic processes. However, CEC Raja’s refusal to engage in such a discussion raises questions about the transparency and efficiency of the electoral body.
Article 244 of the Constitution clearly places the responsibility on the ECP to conduct elections within a prescribed 90-day period once the National Assembly is prematurely dissolved. This constitutional provision underscores the vital role the ECP plays in ensuring the democratic continuity of the country. It is, therefore, disheartening to witness the CEC’s reluctance to cooperate in setting a date for the general elections, despite the urgency mandated by the Constitution.
President Alvi’s letter invokes Article 48 of the Constitution, which empowers the president to appoint a date for general elections within 90 days of the dissolution of the National Assembly. The Constitution’s intent is clear: to ensure a seamless transition and uninterrupted democratic representation. However, recent changes to the election laws have granted the CEC the authority to determine the election date independently, without requiring the president’s input.
CEC Raja’s response, as communicated in his letter to the president, invokes Section 57 of the Elections Act and the amendments that have given the commission the power to announce election dates. While the legal intricacies are being debated, the broader concern remains the apparent disregard for collaborative decision-making and the potential ramifications for the democratic process.
The CEC’s emphasis on the delimitation of constituencies as a foundational step towards holding the elections is noteworthy. However, it must be questioned whether this technicality justifies sidelining a discussion between the president and the chief election commissioner. The principle of transparency and shared responsibility should take precedence in such matters.
The citizens of Pakistan deserve a democratic process that is timely, transparent, and accountable. The president’s attempts to engage in discussions about election dates are driven by the commitment to upholding the democratic values enshrined in the Constitution. The CEC’s reluctance to participate in this discourse sends concerning signals about the state of the country’s electoral processes.
The declining of a meeting request by CEC Raja underscores the troubling direction the Election Commission of Pakistan appears to be taking under his leadership. The electoral process, a cornerstone of democracy, should not be marred by unnecessary delays or lack of cooperation between key stakeholders. The Pakistani people deserve a commitment to a robust and participatory electoral system, and it is hoped that all relevant parties will come together to ensure the timely conduct of the upcoming general elections.