Election roundup: The caretakers gear up

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The accountability court has given Mian Nawaz until the 19th of June to either find another lawyer or convince Khawaja Harris to rejoin the case. One week seems to be a little tight to find a new counsel and bring him up to speed, but it is the same amount of time that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has set for scrutinising the nomination papers.

Khawaja Harris’s rejoining would, of course, be the ideal scenario for the courts. A new lawyer would frustrate them by asking for time to prepare and get to know the case. But though there may be a desire to have a verdict out before the polls, the legal process must take precedence.

Speaking of the courts, they seem to be knee deep in the elections everywhere. First, the appointment of caretaker Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Chief Minister Dost Mohammad Khan was challenged in the court for “violating the constitution.” While vaguer claims have been made, this one falls flat simply because it comes too late. The lawyer moving it demanded that Dost Mohammad Khan should not be allowed to take the oath of office, something he had already done days before the petition was filed.

Meanwhile, yet another disqualification threat looms large as the Supreme Court (SC) is set to announce a verdict in the Sheikh Rasheed disqualification case on Wednesday (today). If Sheikh Rasheed is indeed disqualified, then it would be an embarrassing moment for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), but nothing they cannot get out of. Given how the nonchalance with which they treated the disqualification of their general secretary, Sheikh Rashid would not really dent the PTI’s Teflon coating.

The petition against the Awami Muslim League (AML) chief accuses him of misrepresenting his assets on his 2013 election nomination papers. On the other hand, PTI Chairman Imran Khan is facing controversy in NA 243 Karachi over much more embarrassing accusations. A citizen has filed a petition against him over the Sita White case, brought up just yesterday by former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

The Sita White issue has followed Imran through the years, never really going away and sticking around at the peripheries, an easy enough point to bring up against him despite the many new talking points he gives his opponents every day. While it has been a scandal stretched thin over the years, let us see whether the issue going to court so close to elections has any effect.

The existence or non-existence of Imran Khan’s love child notwithstanding, the election season really is underway. With the selections made, cabinets sworn in, pleasantries exchanged and visits paid, the caretaker setup is finally gearing up to conduct polls in the country. Caretaker Prime Minister Nasir ul Mulk met with Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (r) Sardar Muhammad Raza, where the prime minister once again insisted that the polls were to be held per schedule and asked the CEC what preparations had been taken to this end.

Also, per election procedure, the ECP has directed the federal authorities to change chief secretaries and provincial police heads by Wednesday and has called the new appointees for a meeting on Thursday.

Postscript:

A 100-year-old woman is set to take on PTI chief Imran Khan in NA 35 Bannu constituency. Hazrat Bibi of Bannu is a local celebrity who has contested elections before, where she campaigned for girl’s education. While she seemingly may not be stiff competition for Imran, she is simultaneously fighting both ageism and sexism. Let’s see if she can pull off an upset.

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