Pakistan's federal government is about to complete its term, a first in Pakistan’s tumultuous history. Now, in the run-up to the general elections this year, electoral reform is underway.
The Express Tribune reported on January 24: “In the process of introducing reforms, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has decided to empower itself with administrative powers similar to those in India... According to a source, the reforms introduced by the ECP makes the entire government machinery subordinate to the commission as soon as the election schedule is announced. The ECP is also likely to get the right to transfer secretaries, inspector-generals and other government officials during the period.” Dawn added: “Sources said the motive behind these reforms is to ensure transparency of the upcoming general elections, which the CEC had termed crucial. It is pertinent to mention that the election commission in neighbouring India gets all administrative powers with the announcement of [the] election schedule, a power that the Pakistani election commission never had before.”
A FRESH crisis awaited Pakistan PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf this week. The News reported on January 25: “The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the National Accountability Bureau to file references against PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and PPP secretary general Jehangir Badr, for appointing Tauqir Sadiq as chairman of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority and later facilitating him in escaping the country.” NAB contends the appointment was illegal and when it objected to it, Sadiq was let out of the country. The references have be filed by January 30.
Lull after the storm
AFTER mobilising lakhs of people across Pakistan against the incumbent government, Islamic cleric Tahirul Qadri ended up “compromising” with them.
Najam Sethi wrote in his column in The Friday Times on January 25: “Qadri’s demand for the army and judiciary to be given a stakeholder’s role in any future political dispensation has raised the spectre of another ‘Establishment’ conspiracy to undermine the transition to popular democracy. In fact, his insistence on the application of constitutional articles 62 and 63 by the Election Commission to weed out ‘traditional politicians’, even at the expense of delaying the elections for a couple of years, has confirmed our worst fears. Further, the ‘peaceful’ nature of the long march — a fundamental right to protest — was betrayed when Qadri threatened to overrun parliament house by force — an undemocratic move — if his demands weren’t met, thereby paving the way for similar shows of force and threat by other non-state actors or political parties in times to come... The PPP government gave Qadri a face-saving exit by ‘declaring’ it would consult him in nominating the caretaker PM... But the ‘declaration’ is a sort of MoU with no legal or binding authority... The crunch will come soon enough when the government and opposition sit down to hammer out the details...”