PM’s bold decision

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A day after his party could not manage victory of its towering candidate for Islamabad seat of the Senate, Prime Minister Imran Khan, on Thursday, in an address to the nation, re-confirmed decision of the ruling coalition that the Prime Minister would seek a vote of confidence from the National Assembly to prove that he still enjoys confidence of the majority.

In a related development, President Dr Arif Alvi, in exercise of his powers under Article 54 (1) of the Constitution, has summoned the National Assembly (NA) session at 12.15 pm on Saturday (March 06) for the purpose.

Defeat and victory are part of the game but it is more important to uphold the democratic principles and, therefore, the bold decision of the PM to seek a vote of confidence is reflective of the democratic spirit.

In his address, the Prime Minister mostly spoke about use of money in the elections of the upper house, a universal truth that needs to be swallowed both by the Government and the Opposition so that corrective measures are taken to prevent possibility of such loathsome practices in future.

The Prime Minister has rightly pointed out that the large-scale allegations of electoral corruption have inflicted damage on the nascent process of democracy but all have to share blame for the purpose in view of tactics that were used to influence and win bye-elections of Daska besides unproven allegations that tickets for the Senate were not awarded purely on merit.

In his address, the Prime Minister also gave the figure of 16 members, who he believed sold themselves in the elections of the Senate, without elaborating further on the issue – what he plans to do to expose them and punish such elements as he did after the last elections of the upper house.

In fact, the Government should have learnt a lesson from the bitter experience it had in the previous elections of the Senate and moved towards electoral reforms by taking the Opposition on board.

It is not fair to blame the Election Commission for not making adequate arrangements to ensure sanctity of the ballot as the Supreme Court delivered its verdict at the neck of the time, leaving no possibility for the Commission to consider and implement any plan for improvement in the prevailing system.

In the first place, how the ECP could have used bar codes or detective technology to identify votes when the Constitution envisages secret ballot.

The vote of Federal Minister Shahryar Afridi was rejected for the only reason that it bore his signature, which made it identifiable.

Similarly, any other method to make the vote identifiable would have rendered it questionable and made the election controversial.

The Government has all the institutions under its control, fully equipped with surveillance and monitoring gadgets, and it should not be difficult for it to expose disgruntled elements if it wanted to do so.

It is also a fact that the Election Commission had completed all formalities and despatched the election material to provinces for use on the Election Day and any change in the process including reprinting would have delayed the entire exercise.

No doubt, the Supreme Court has held that there is nothing like absolute secrecy but how this opinion is to be given practical shape can best be understood once a detailed judgement of the apex court is available in the case in question and hopefully the court would find a way out without compromising the secrecy of the vote.

In the meantime, no one can stop Parliament from making amendments to the Constitution but this requires consensus, which is unlikely in the prevailing circumstances. We also have been emphasizing in these columns that it is time for the Government to have soul searching.

Instead of putting all the blame on the Opposition, it would be worthwhile for the ruling party to go deep into causes and factors that led to horse-trading involving only its own members.

The Prime Minister has a clean background and is a firm believer in transparency and with this in view one fails to understand why his team members are not upholding his principled position.

There is all likelihood that the Prime Minister would win the confidence of the majority during a vote of confidence.

However, things are unlikely to change much on the ground if rhetoric is not shunned, normalcy is restored in the national politics and the Government exploits its energy only on projects and programmes that can bring about a change for the better in the life of the masses.

Performance and delivery alone would determine the fate of the parties in the next general election and, therefore, without compromising on the issue of accountability and corruption, visible progress should be made to implement the welfare agenda of the PTI.