Election and rule of law

AS Caretakers and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) came under fire in the Senate during two-day discussion on election related issues, the Secretary of the Commission Babar Yaqoob has tried to allay fears about neutrality of the electoral exercise and credibility of the elections. While Senators questioned magisterial powers for security officials on the polling day, the Secretary held out an assurance that there was no pressure from any quarter and the Commission was in full control of things.
Trading of allegations is, no doubt, a routine during elections as political parties try to take advantage of different developments and actions taken by the government or other institutions during electioneering. As for magisterial powers, the Commission has categorically stated that Presiding Officers concerned would be in charge of polling stations while the armed forces and police personnel would just assist them. We must appreciate that law & order situation in the country is pretty precarious and we have had several bomb blasts and suicide attacks in recent days taking heavy toll of human lives. Our enemies can take advantage of the situation as well as polarisation in the country in a bid to disrupt the election process or bring its credibility into question. Therefore, deployment of security personnel was a must to ensure protection of life on the polling day.
However, there are some actions of the ECP that create doubts including the decision to ban on carrying mobile phones to the polling stations both by the voters and the polling agents. One can understand bar on voters as there is a tendency to take snap-shots of every thing and then share them on social media and that could mean unnecessary controversies on the Election Day. However, there is no justification to deprive polling agents of their cellular phones. They are there to watch interests of their parties and candidates concerned and inform them of any wrong-doing well in time so that remedial measures are taken. Similarly, the decision to allow those with expired CNIC to cast votes is also questionable. Everyone knows that elections were to be held and they should have renewed their cards well in time. Again, there are some decisions like disqualification of Hanif Abbasi that gives impression that level playing field is not being provided to political parties.
Law has to take its own course but timing of the judgement and the speed with which the case has been concluded in five days also raised concern among PML (N) circles as the party stands deprived of its candidate in a crucial constituency. Leader of AML Sheikh Rashid Ahmad got a walkover as a result of ouster of Abbasi from the race. PPP is also complaining that sudden interest of FIA in corruption cases against its Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur are politically motivated. No one would oppose legal action but suspension of all legal or administrative actions against parties, their leaders and candidates would have saved us from controversies. Elections are just two days away and it is all the more imperative to seek assistance and cooperation of all concerned to make them peaceful and credible.

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