General elections or a technocratic setup?



Ansar M Bhatti

The PTI Chairman Imran Khan has announced the ‘court arrest’ movement from this Wednesday. As per the schedule the movement will kick start from Lahore and PTI workers shall flock to the police stations to offer their arrests. According to PTI sources thousands of workers have already registered their names for this movement.

 However, according to Pakistani laws there is no provision that people offering this kind of arrest can actually be taken in custody until and unless they violate any laws or resort to hullabaloo. The jail bharo or court arrest phenomenon is not new. Even in the past various political parties employed this gimmick in order to exert pressure on the government of the day.

All such movements ended without yielding any desired results and the same is likely to happen in the case of PTI jail bharo movement. The PTI leadership also is very well aware of this fact but even then it still wants to try this drill in order to keep its workers engaged and charged, which appears to be a plausible move especially when the government and other concerned authorities are not in a mood to announce dates for the Punjab and KP elections.

According to the conclusion that I drew during recent meetings with the senior PTI leadership, the party leadership is of the view that since the President of Pakistan had written a letter to the Election Commission of Pakistan and invited the CEC for a meeting today and in case of any deadlock the President may himself announce the date.

If it happens then the court arrest movement will automatically be called off. The Election Commission has already responded to the President Letter. According to the contents of the letter the Commission is of the view the President may not have any authority to give a date for the elections.

The ECP contended the President can only give dates in case of dissolution of the National Assembly therefore the Commission does not consider it necessary to consult with the President hence no meeting.

 These are the legal glitches that are likely to land in courts and it is presumed the apex court of Pakistan may ultimately make any decision about this. As regards the role of the President, even if it is not written in the Constitution, being the head of the state the President may intervene and he should intervene if he is convinced that the constitutional order is at stake.

It is a point of concern that the constitutional bodies are reluctant to fulfill their constitutional role with regard to holding of two provincial elections within 90 days. Everybody is unanimous on this point that there is no such provision that allows elections to be delayed beyond 90 days yet nobody is ready to fulfill this statutory obligation.

To go against the Constitution simply because the exercise may not render the required results for some particular forces shall ostensibly be an act that cannot be supported.

Allow elections to take place on time and let the genuine triumphant take charge of the affairs. The best thing which the authorities responsible for holding elections can do is to ensure that the whole drill is executed in a free and fair manner so that a genuine set up emerges as a result of this exercise.  We have already suffered a lot at the hands of the forces of the status quo. This practice must come to an end now if this country is to be transformed into a true and representative democratic state.

From the face of it, it appears as if the PMLN especially is scared of elections. First, being the leading party in the coalition, it has failed to deliver the goods. It is because of its lackluster performance that the PTI has once again emerged as the preferred choice of the people. Secondly, the party is facing severe internal rifts.

The senior leadership including Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Saad Rafiq, Miftah Ismael, Ayaz Sadiq and others seem to have revolted against Maryam Nawaz, ever since she has been elevated to the post of senior vice president and the chief organizer of the party. With this challenge in hand the party certainly cannot afford to go for elections for it may prove suicidal that is why it wants the elections to be delayed.

Similarly, the PML N leadership is quite aware of the fact that if the elections in the Punjab and the KP take place within 90 days then it would be very difficult for the federal government to remain in office. The PDM has decided not to take part in the by-elections for two reasons perhaps.

One, these parties fear ignominious defeat at the hands of the PTI and secondly they want PTI to return to the national assembly so that the house stands completed and the legislation carried out afterwards gets some credence. On the second option the party option is split nevertheless.

I had pointed out in my earlier pieces as well that the powers-that-be wish to have a technocratic set up for at least two years. There is no such provision in the constitution but it is possible if the courts allow that. I am personally in favour of this kind of set up for a limited period though.

The bruised and battered economy of Pakistan needs some rest. For that it has to be kept out of reach of the politicians albeit for a while. But when we talk about a technocratic set up then it should be a true technocratic set up comprising people capable of carrying out the government business efficiently and impartially.

It must not be like the one which has been installed in the Punjab of KP. It all depends on the forces that actually run this country. Let us hope they will come up with a solution that genuinely seeks to heal wounds.