AT long last, the ambiguity around elections for Punjab and KP assemblies is clearing after President Dr. Arif Alvi picked one of the two dates proposed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for polling in Punjab. The President, on Friday, fixed April 30 (Sunday) as the polling date for general elections in Punjab while the ECP has asked the KP Governor to fix a date for elections of the provincial assembly. The development follows a verdict of the Supreme Court, which took suo motu notice of delay in holding elections in the two provinces with directions to the President, the Governor KP and the Election Commission to fix dates after necessary consultations.
The Election Commission and the President have done their job as directed by the top court by initiating the process for general elections for Punjab and KP assemblies that were dissolved on January 14 and January 18 respectively. A meeting of the heads of three main coalition partners at the centre i.e. PML(N), PPP and JUI(F) was held following the announcement of the date for elections in Punjab by the President. There are, so far, no clear words from the federal government but reports suggest former President Asif Ali Zardari suggested to other colleagues to go for the polls as there was no other option left for them after the verdict of the apex court. It is also not fully clear whether the Finance Ministry would be in a position to release the required money for the electoral exercise in the prevailing financial crisis besides availability of Army personnel, Rangers and Police force in the required numbers to assist the Commission in the discharge of its obligation to hold elections in a free and fair manner.
It is, however, high time that all stakeholders should now concentrate on their poll strategies and give up the path of confrontation in the interest of the country, which is facing continued instability due to the uncertain environment. It would have been more appropriate if elections in Punjab were held on May 7 to provide ample opportunity to candidates and political parties to carry out their election campaigns easily after the holy month of Ramzan which would be ending hardly a week before the polls. Now that a date is in sight, all parties and especially their leadership should exercise utmost restraint to bring down the high level of political bitterness and polarization in the country. Electoral exercise is a democratic process, which all parties profess to uphold, and therefore, they should participate in it in a sportsman-like spirit. The Election Commission would surely issue a comprehensive code of conduct as before and it should be adhered to by all participating candidates and parties.