Let jury to stay out | By Muhammad Usman


Let jury to stay out

NATION saw yet another round of clash between the change agent and forces of status quo on the eve of Senate elections.

The venue was Islamabad where allegedly, PPP nominee, Yousaf Raza Gillani won against Imran’s candidate, Hafeez Sheikh through horse trading.

Imran Khan plainly accused ECP for protecting and facilitating foul play by holding elections through secret ballot.

ECP shot back with ferocity and rejected the accusations scornfully while laying the spectacular claim of conducting elections as mandated by the Constitution. Both have the right to interpret and defend their positions but whatever was seen circumstantially, is far more than sufficient to pass the judgment by the court of the people. The success/failure in a test does not lie in procedures but in substance.

A procedure is a means to achieve an end. Underlying purpose was a fair, impartial and transparent election.

Here, ECP has struck naught. By closing their eyes blissfully or otherwise, they cannot disburden themselves from failure in discharge of responsibility, entrusted to them under Article 218(3) of the Constitution “it shall be the duty of the Election Commission to organize and conduct the election and to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law, and corrupt practices are guarded against”.

To the contrary, everything associated with instant election stings. It is not an isolated inference drawn. It is the view of all and sundry because circumstantial evidence is too compelling and in abundance.

A mere glance into what happened, vividly illustrates its preponderance and logic.

Yousaf Raza Gillani was PM when he was convicted by the highest court of the land for defying its instructions. He chose to collude with crime.

As a PM again, he was also guilty of misappropriating a precious necklace, donated by Turkish First Lady for flood-hit people of Pakistan. He stigmatized Pakistan worldwide.

He has already been booked for about two dozen cases involving corruption, abusing public office and other crimes.

His candidature was a test case but he was allowed to contest Senate election despite a petition, challenging his nomination papers under Article 62 of the Constitution.

For an ordinary citizen, a negative police report is enough to declare him unsuitable for a public job.

Leave aside requirements contained in the Constitution for suitability of a candidate to the Senate, Gillani even cannot obtain a normal positive police report but he was cleared as pure as ice.

Regardless of the real motivation which enticed the government to file reference in SC, seeking open balloting for Senate election, it was a good proposition in the backdrop of our past history and recent observations that money was amassed for horse trading for the crunch seat of Senate at Islamabad.

ECP stood against it like other known characters in the business while taking refuge under the Constitution selectively nevertheless, SC ruled that ECP is required to employ all available means including latest technology to fulfil its solemn constitutional responsibility under article 218(3) of the Constitution.

This also failed to deter ECP as it decided not to use technology or any other measure which could make ballot traceable.

This scuttled hope of Senate elections, free of wheeling and dealing. The cited reason was paucity of time.

With availability of fastest means/technology, it is absolutely untenable. It was a contempt of court but still ECP opted for what people on the other side of the fence wanted. This smacked of something suspicious.

Prior to election, in a thinly disguised move, Zardari landed in Islamabad to do what he is notoriously known for and takes pride.

For electoral guard; ECP, this remained business as usual while displaying its callous disregard to public scrutiny and now to SC too.

PTI laid hands on some videos of underhand deal in progress and rushed to ECP but found its offices closed nevertheless, news did not cause sleeplessness of any sort to them. On fateful Election Day, whatever was being apprehended, proved true.

The election staff behaved more pliantly to bigwigs of the ruling elite than even the PM. This reflects the existing bent of mind in ECP.

Until then, nothing stirred ECP but it showed unusual haste and gall with a sharp and tough rejoinder when PM Imran Khan accused them of doing a disservice to democracy by its failure to curb corrupt practices. This only amplified its bias for people who have ransacked our polity.

Even with rising public backlash, their wedlock with the corrupt ruling elite seems unhinged.

ECP is constantly dragging its feet on petition submitted by PTI regarding dubious activities in Senate elections. Probably it is to delay its hearing until Gillani takes oath.

Thereafter, his election would slip into rigmarole of legal quibbling/niceties or may be left as fait accompli.

In the case of Daska by election, ECP was quick and brisk because the mistress of PML (N) wanted so. A nation is held together with warp and weft of institutions.

They are brick and mortar of democracy. Like ECP, there are also other institutions which work inversely in league with corrupt mafias/ruling elite to ditch Imran Khan.

The examples are crises of essential commodities or virtually anything about which he takes notice in order to show him incompetent/ineffective.

They all gang up. Besides, PDM is doing everything which could cause uncertainty and turmoil in the country.

So far their strategy may be working, however, they should not push its frontiers too far because the combined effect of it, is also severely cramping the life of the people.

Jury is still out and may remain so until there is hope of change or their lives are not squeezed further hard.

It is in the interest of the system that it stays out because it has its own set of rules and people have already started showing signs of their propensity to street justice when they find no other avenue for redressing their precariously placed plight.

— The writer, a retired Lt Col, is a senior columnist based in Islamabad.