Election Watch Update - Feb 8

Pakistan Awami Tehreek/Minhaj-ul-Quran leader Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri filed an application at the Supreme Court of Pakistan calling for the Chief Election Commissioner and the four provincial commissioners to be restrained from working until the ECP was reconstituted. Qadri claims that the commissioners were not appointed according to the law. This demand has been supported by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid.

In a rebuttal, Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim said that the commissioners were appointed according to the Constitution and the allegations appeared to be an attempt to malign the ECP for political gain. Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that political parties were united in their support for the Election Commission of Pakistan.

President Asif Ali Zardari’s lawyer Wasim Sajjad clarified his statement on the president’s post as head of a political party. Sajjad says the president does not have a political position since the PPP, of which President Zardari is co-chairperson, is not registered as a political party.   

PML-N leader Ishaq Dar, the head of the Senate’s committee on election reform did not agree to a proposal for political parties to give 10% of tickets to women, noting that women would be made to run from constituencies where they had little chance of winning. The committee also rejected Dr Qadri’s proposal for a 30-day period to scrutinize candidates. The committee’s report is scheduled to be released on Friday.

Dawn analyses that the PML-Q will have a significant number of members leaving the party in the run-up to the elections. The PML-Q was, in any case, formed after Pervez Musharraf’s 1999 coup and its leadership came from the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. Negotiations continue between the PML-Q and the PPP on an electoral alliance.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has ordered that constituencies in Karachi be redrawn and asked for reports on the voter verification process. The ECP has earlier said that constituencies cannot be redrawn unless a census is held; however, the court observed that this is not a bar. The MQM has asked for a review of the order to delimit constituencies.

The delimitation of constituencies stems from a Supreme Court verdict in 2011 [PDF] on the state of law and order in Karachi, and the court has periodically held hearings on implementation of its verdict. The court took suo motu notice of violence in Karachi in 2011 based in part on a statement from Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri calling for action. [PDF]

The ECP confirmed that military personnel will be deployed inside polling stations in Karachi and will remain there until the votes are counted.

32 members of the Punjab Assembly have denied allegations that they were dual national citizens. The ECP had issued notices to 35 members. One accepted that he was a dual national citizen while another member has not responded.

Baloch National Party-Mengal leader Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldani has called for free and fair elections in the country. He said that the party was in touch with the National Party for an electoral alliance.

Sindh Local Government Minister Agha Siraj Durrani said that the government would go ahead with giving jobs, and that anyone who objected could go to court. The ECP has banned recruitment in government departments, and the Sindh government has also issued an official notification on this.

Democracy Reporting International, a European Union-funded think tank, believes that there are not enough mechanisms in place to resolve voter issues, such as complaining about the conduct of candidates. The organization’s reports on Pakistan are available here.

Political parties have been campaigning in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas since they were allowed to operate in the region. The PTI, Jamaat-e-Islami and the JUI-F lead in the number of meetings they have held there.

Commentary:

I.A. Rehman looks at the idea of a long-term caretaker government and successive military leaders who have backed this. Rehman writes that elections are the only way to allow for political parties to mature, new leaders to come up and for democracy to evolve. – Dawn

Iftikhar Ahmed writes that there appears to be little consensus on the idea of a caretaker government, and looks at why countries like Pakistan have such a strong belief in the practice of a caretaker government when this is not in place in many other democratic countries. – Jang (Urdu)

Dr Pervez Tahir analyses the idea of making a budget for the country under a caretaker government. – The Express Tribune