EC and parliamentarians

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Politicians have only themselves to blame

It is time for the political class to realize that there is an independent and powerful Election Commission in place. Accustomed to the toothless commissions of the past as the politicians are, there is a tendency among many to ignore, decline to cooperate with or even defy the EC. Last week the Attorney General asked the Chief Election Commissioner to proceed in the matter of the 11 recently disqualified dual nationality holders in accordance with what he called the relevant provisions of the 1973 Constitution rather than the decision of the apex court. The EC however proceeded to de-notify them. That the federal government was unhappy and unwilling to cooperate with the EC on the issue became further clear when the NA secretariat declined, for the second time, to obtain fresh affidavits from lawmakers to the effect that they did not hold foreign nationality, as directed by the EC. The secretariat raised a technical objection maintaining that it was the business of the EC itself to collect data of the sort.

As many as 393 lawmakers have failed to file statements of assets and liabilities despite the expiry of the official deadline. They include important federal and provincial ministers as well as legislators from nearly all political parties. This is an example of the customary non seriousness displayed vis a vis the directives of the EC. The delay would make the EC’s job of scrutinizing the papers difficult as the Commission is expected to pay full attention to preparations for the elections. While politicians frequently criticize the courts for having enhanced their own powers at the expense of other institutions, most political parties insisted during a consultative session with the EC to conduct the elections under the supervision of officials inducted from judiciary. Are there no honest people outside judiciary? Why shouldn’t the EC hire DROs, ROs and AROs from civilian bureaucracy?

There is a need on the part of the EC to welcome new ideas. At the same time it has to be firm when it comes to enforcing the existing rules and regulations including the constitutional bar to contest elections on dual nationality holders. Those who disagree with the restriction had the opportunity during the last more than four years to strike it down through a constitutional amendment. They have to blame themselves for failing to do it. Multiple centers of power, exercising authority under the constitution in their respective realms, are a guarantee against the concentration of power in one person or a single institution. On hopes the EC will act as a body which listens to all but takes decisions with complete independence.