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An Administrative Analysis on the Postponement of Punjab Assembly Elections; A blatant maneuvering by the Federal Government

An Administrative Analysis on the Postponement of Punjab Assembly Elections; A blatant maneuvering by the Federal Government
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Barrister Nasir Iqbal

An Administrative Analysis on the Postponement of Punjab Assembly Elections; A blatant maneuvering by the Federal Government

The election commission of Pakistan postpones the Punjab Assembly elections unanimously after receiving declinations from all federal and provincial executive departments, ministries and organizations. The order of the commission begins with the constitutional obligation of the election commission to hold free and transparent elections under article 218 of the constitution of Pakistan. Furthermore, the order describes that the executive must assist the election commission in line with article 220 of the constitution.

Then, the order contains the historical facts of the transaction of elections. On 14th January, Pervez Elahi, the then-chief minister of Punjab, dissolved the Punjab assembly in line with article 112(1) of the constitution. Accordingly, EC wrote a letter to Governor Punjab to announce the date of the elections between the 9th to 13th of April 2023. Later on, in response to constitutional petitions, the honourable High Court, Lahore, directed the commission to announce the date. Accordingly, the Governor of Punjab did not announce the date, and the August Supreme Court of Pakistan took up the matter. In response, the president of Pakistan announced 30th April as the date to hold PA elections in line with the Elections Act 2017.

Importantly, the order of election commissions clearly shows that they are trying to hold elections, but executive organizations under article 220 are not supporting it. The election commission of Pakistan is shrewdly shifting the burden on federal and provincial departments. Furthermore, relevant federal and provincial departments, ministries and organizations were repeatedly contacted to assist the election commission in holding the PA elections. Accordingly, Federal Interior and Defense ministries were contacted to assist with the elections. However, they refused to do so because of falling security and rising terrorism.
Moreover, through their secretary, the federal ministry of finance refused to allocate financial resources under the plea that Pakistan was facing an economic crunch. Furthermore, they were yet to enter an IMF programme. Therefore, the provision of extra funds was not possible.

Chief Election Commissioner Mr Sikinder Sultan Raja is a seasoned bureaucrat. He knows how to evade legal and constitutional implications; therefore, the order is shifting the responsibility to the federal and executive offices. Then, there is nothing wrong with it as all executive offices under the controlling authority of the federal government are refusing to assist the election commission of Pakistan. The order writes that repeated meetings were carried out with the federal and provincial organizations, but the organizations needed to show more assistance.

It is important to note that the federal government controls all the federal ministries. Ministry of Interior and Defense falls directly under their control. Then, the federal government control the provinces through their federal civil servants, chief secretary and IG. It is such a constitutional anomaly that the federation even represents provinces. It is no less than an administrative joke. Therefore, both the chief secretary and IG, who seems to be provincial representatives but are actually federal representatives, denied any assistance to the election commission of Pakistan under irrelevant and inconsistent pleas. The Inspector general of police, actually a federal employee, reported that, owing to the shortfall of police force, rising crimes, and deteriorating law and order situation, it is impossible to assist the election commission of Pakistan. Furthermore, federal and provincial agencies, including ISI, IB, CTD and others, also refused to support the election commission on the plea of rising terrorism and other security-related engagements.

The order reads, furthermore, that on 14th March 2023, a meeting was held with the chief secretary and IG Punjab, along with MOD, wherein the chief secretary Punjab expressed in detail the financial constraints of the province of Punjab. It raises a question, how can a federal employee as a chief secretary represent a province in a federation? It simply means that a province is not even authorized in Pakistan to represent itself. Then, it is another discussion that the Punjab government is spending so much on subsidized programmes of Jash-n-Barahan and Ramzan-related programmes directly or indirectly. Furthermore, the IG and MOD also explained that they would not provide security in the elections due to the national security situation.

After getting a refusal from all federal and provincial executive organizations, the election commission of Pakistan must force them to assist under article 220. The election commission of Pakistan is empowered to hold elections, and if it can not hold elections, then; what is the advantage of raising it? Rather than initiating proceedings against executive offices, the election commission of Pakistan obeyed their refusals and declined to hold elections in an absolute violation of the constitution. Then, the date of 9th October is also symbolic, as it means that Pakistan’s election commission is only interested in holding national and provincial assembly elections on the same date as PDM desires. The problem is when a civil servant is appointed to a constitutional post and needs to renounce his political affiliation because he had earned it throughout his career, it remains impossible for him. Then, his pension and other terms and conditions are dealt in Establishment Division, and thus, he can not disobey the federal government.

The order of the Election Commission of Pakistan clearly shows that the federal government orchestrated it through its executive offices. The federal government refused to hold the elections and used all federal and provincial offices in this regard. How can federal and provincial ministries, agencies, departments and organizations refuse to assist the election commission of Pakistan until the federal government orders them? Therefore, the federal government have appointed all its favorite civil servants to important positions, including the chief secretary and IG of the province of Punjab, in order to orchestrate all the decisions. Importantly, even the federal government unconstitutionally appoints a chief secretary and IG only to impose its agenda on provinces. Hence, it is established that no provincial organization is involved in decision-making.

Lastly, only the executive offices should have proceeded if a subversion of the constitution is established. These are the executive offices that are repeatedly disobeying the law and constitution in the country. It is also the responsibility of the judiciary to implement the law and constitution. The political and bureaucratic executives must correspond to the constitution of Pakistan. Federal states can not allow bureaucratic fascism. Unless bureaucratic fascism is not controlled in Pakistan, the state will remain lawless. Upholding of the constitution shall bring de-jure and de-facto powerful bureaucracy under the rule of law. It can happen if the judiciary plays its role and people rise to implement it.

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