The ‘powers that be’ in Pakistan have finally allowed a date to be announced for the next elections – February 8, 2024. While this is welcome news, it means that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) once again broke its word as the date represents a delay from the ‘end of January’ timeline, which the electoral body gave in late September and affirmed last week.
As an editorial in Dawn pointed out, “It also represents a 95-day violation of the deadline to hold elections according to the Constitution. The court, while hearing the matter, had rubbished the assertion of the law ministry and ECP that the president had no authority to give election dates.”
The ECP now has three months to ensure a ‘free, fair, impartial and inclusive election’. “It seems like a tall order, given the prevailing political climate and parties’ repeated complaints about being denied a level playing field. The political parties, too, need to regroup, vet their candidates, organise campaigns and start mobilising voters for the big day. Because so little has been done in preparation for the exercise up till now, they have a long and bumpy road ahead of them. The Supreme Court has given them a head start, and they should take advantage of it.” If, however, as Dawn notes, “the participating parties are still denied an equal opportunity to present their case to the public, then all of it will have been for nothing.”