Will the election take place in Punjab?

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There are clear indications that both the KP and Punjab governments do not want to hold elections

Ansar M Bhatti

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission has announced the schedule of the general elections in Punjab province according to which polling shall take place on April 30. The date was given after the apex court verdict regarding holding of elections within 90 days. The KP Governor is yet to announce the date. The meeting that took place between the governor and the Election Commission officials remained inconclusive and both sides resolved to meet again next week.

Earlier the Governor had written a letter to the Election Commission asking it to come to his office for consultations. According to inside sources the ECP officials strongly objected to the wording used in the Governor letter and suggested he use his words carefully. The ECP also conveyed to the Governor that as per the Supreme Court verdict he was to announce poll date and not to dictate the Election Commission.

There are clear indications that both the KP and Punjab governments do not want to hold elections. According to some sources, even the Election Commission is not in a mood to hold elections, however since the apex court has asked it to undertake this drill that is why it is following the orders with this ‘hope’ that at some stage the entire process shall come to a standstill. Those who want delay in elections are banking on economic, political and law and order situations which, according to their assessment, may go from bad to worse thus providing an excuse to such elements to wrap up the entire process.

On Wednesday March 8, the PTI rally was baton-charged and tear-gassed. From the face of it, the government wanted the PTI workers to resort of violence and hullabaloo in response to police action, nevertheless sensing the ‘intrigue’ the PTI leaders instead announced to postpone the rally. It was a correct decision. The electronic media is not allowed to telecast Imran Khan speeches, live or recorded, after the PEMRA slapped a ban a few days ago therefore he could have gone unheard in that situation. They are knocking the court door today challenging this ban and it is quite evident that the PTI chief may get some relief as there are many court verdicts that disallow such a blanket ban on independence of speech.

Sources believe the matter may once again land in the Supreme Court as the Election Commission may not get the desired support required to organize elections in a free and fair manner. Sources believe the government seems to be playing with fire by expressing its intent to hinder a constitutional process.

According to the government circles the desired results can only be achieved if the PTI chairman is arrested because his arrest may trigger severe unrest. But this is the one side of the story. What impact the unrest will have on the already shaken and dead economy of Pakistan can be anybody’s guess.