Election Watch Update - Jan 31

In a meeting last month, Pakistan Army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani reportedly told Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, “Don’t worry what Tahirul Qadri might say, hold the elections.” Ebrahim also claims he didn’t recognize General Kayani. “You won’t believe that was the first time I saw him,” said the chief election commissioner, who had turned to speak to whom he thought was a high-ranking army officer at the meeting.  “I asked him to give my regards to General Kayani and he said, ‘I AM Kayani’.”

Ebrahim also said that his advice to President Asif Ali Zardari would be to not participate in the election campaign, and reiterated his resolve to make the elections an ‘even playing field’.

The ECP has taken notice of reports that its ban on recruiting for government jobs and reallocating funds is not being followed, and has asked several government officials to respond.

The Ministry of Defence has also assured the ECP that it will provide security to its staffers.

The tax ombudsman has recommended to the ECP that parliamentarians take an additional oath about their tax filings when they are sworn in, as well as in their nomination papers.

The US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson said in a speech on Wednesday that, “We look to your upcoming election as a historic and defining moment for Pakistan, when, for the first time, one civilian government transfers power to the next in accordance with the constitution, and reflecting the will of the Pakistani people.  We do not support any one political party, or any one candidate.  But we will continue to help strengthen the institutions that work to ensure a free and fair process that gives a voice to all Pakistanis.”

While PPP leaders have often said that elections will happen on schedule, The Express Tribune claims some party leaders have said elections will be held in September.

The PML-N’s Sindh chapter has decided to speed up its negotiations with the province’s nationalist parties for electoral alliances.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement has won four Sindh Assembly seats - vacated after its own legislators resigned - given that no other candidates filed nomination papers. On the other hand, the PPP's candidates for by-elections in Jamshoro-Dadu and Thatta need to file affidavits that they are not dual national citizens, after their rivals raised the issue with the election tribunal.

Commentary:

I.A. Rehman provides an insight into how the Election Commission has evolved over the years and on Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution, noting that when General Zia-ul-Haq expanded these articles, they were rejected then by ‘democratic sections of society’, and should be rejected now too. - Dawn

Ansar Abbasi hits out at Imran Khan for saying that Articles 62 and 63 should only be implemented as far as financial misdoing is concerned. Abbasi says the ‘propaganda’ against these articles is a way to pave the entry of ‘drunkards, adulterers, liars, conspirators and faithless people’ into parliament. Abbasi advises Khan to stay away from such ‘secular and liberal fascists’ who are conspiring to shake the foundations of Pakistan. – Jang (Urdu)

Note: Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution outline the grounds for qualification and disqualification of elected representatives. The condition that members of parliament have to be “sagacious, righteous and non-profligate and honest and ameen (trustworthy)” and of “good character” have recently been the centre of debate in Pakistan and has been used by the court in issuing judgments.

Ayesha Siddiqa discusses the future of the PPP and the lack of ‘jiyalas’ – people who were truly committed to an ideology – as well as the need for chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to be more in touch with the needs of the electorate. – The Express Tribune

Talat Hussain analyzes the International Republican Institute’s poll that saw the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf dropping in popularity. Hussain notes that the ranks of the party’s leadership are not in tune when it comes to setting direction and strategy, and that the PTI has said a lot but done little over the past few months. – The Express Tribune