The body has a lot to prove in the near future if it is not to become completely — rather than partially — discredited
It is possible to allow a degree of sympathy for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), battered as it is by all sides no matter what it does or which way it turns, whether it is right or wrong or just plain fuddled. The most recent storm to hit it concerns the decision to prevent the ruling PML-N from gaining a potentially unfair advantage in the forthcoming local government elections. The ECP has deferred implementation of some components of the Kissan package that was announced by the prime minister on September 15. The package is worth a lot of money — Rs341 billion — and is designed to shield farmers from a lengthy slump in agricultural commodity prices. It could also be seen as a blatant attempt to secure farmers votes, and it is that concern that has persuaded the ECP to rule as it has. The rules are clear — no development schemes are to be announced in the run-up to local or national elections and where the schedule of polling has been announced. The ECP also found that the government’s advertising campaign also flouted the rules.
The ECP has been under sustained attack from the PTI over allegations of rigging, and election tribunals have in the recent past overturned some poll results. The body has a lot to prove in the near future if it is not to become completely — rather than partially — discredited. The PTI is now vocal about the Kissan package, but it is not clear whether the ECP move to ban it in part prior to the poll will work in its favour or not. Depriving farmers of money and tax breaks is not going to be a vote winner for the PTI; which may well find little favour as a result of what it will spin as its principled actions in bringing the matter up in the first place. On that basis, farmers are likely to stick with the devil they know — the PML-N — rather than the devil they do not — the PTI. And the ECP? Shot by both sides. Again.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2015.
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