OPEN LETTER TO THE CHIEF ELECTION COMMISSIONER

Published (edited) in the Express Tribune on 3rd of January, 2014

To,

The Honorable Chief Election Commissioner

Pakistan.

Respected Sir,

I write to you as a citizen of Pakistan, to convey my concerns on the Local Government Election (LG Elections) debacle.

While legal battles are being waged in Courts and Commissions by political parties and Governments – we the citizens feel mocked at by the very process that is in place to make us stronger.

Balochistan is the only province that has gone ahead and fulfilled its obligation. Election laws have not yet been made in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, LG Elections schedule practically stands cancelled in Sindh for the first time while the citizens living in Punjab have twice been obliged by said disruption. Twice has the hope of seeing power devolve into their hands been snatched from within their grasp.

While we, the citizens, are expected to abide by all laws and fulfill all our obligations towards the State sincerely with the sanction of penal action in case of failure therein, the State has failed without sanction, to fulfill its obligation towards the citizens.

Article 140 A read with Article 32 of the Constitution of Pakistan imposes an obligation on Provincial Governments to establish local governments in each province and devolve political, administrative and financial powers. However we have been denied this right for almost 5 years.

I believe in supremacy of the Constitution; all laws and institutions derive power from, and are bound to abide by, this sacred code. However even after the Supreme Court of Pakistan put its force behind Article 140 A, whereby the Election Commission is authorized to hold LG Elections, the honourable Commission seems helpless. It is generally believed that political parties are averse to the idea of LG Elections and consequent devolution of power from their clutches to the hands of the people. Hence, the demand for proper delimitation is being used as an excuse and soon enough the demand for overdue census will be added for effect. In their loud celebrations for the revival of democracy our political parties and Governments apparently forgot that democracy is not yet complete, not without functioning local governments.

LG Elections seem improbable after recent decisions of the honorable High Courts of Sindh and Punjab. The honourable Election Commission is faced with a dilemma; new delimitation requires time, which would necessitate postponing LG Elections, but for how long? Before delimitation, the question of overdue census will surface and that will in turn take even longer adding more years between the citizens and their right to local governments.

Recommendation

In my humble opinion the democratic process is completed only when we have an elected Parliament, provincial Assemblies, an elected President and finally, elected local governments. Without any one of the above mentioned ingredients democracy is incomplete, partial and even defective. The Constitutional obligation of holding a census every 10 years has been ignored since 2008. As a result the current Parliament and Provincial Assemblies were elected in 2013 on the basis of the 1998 census and the honourable President of Pakistan sits in office elected by these very Assemblies.

If the 1998 census and pre-2013 election delimitation were deemed sufficient to conduct general and consequent presidential elections, why are they now suddenly obsolete for the last phase of the democratic process?

If LG elections are postponed or cancelled owing to non fulfillment of the legal obligation of census, it will also put a question mark on the legitimacy of general elections of 2013. The number of seats for Senate, National Assembly and all four Provincial Assemblies will then be inaccurate based on population figures that aren’t real anymore. The distribution of funds to Provinces for the next five years may also be questioned as unfair.

Under these circumstances if the Election Commission files an application with the Supreme Court of Pakistan seeking a declaration to the effect that 1998 Census and pre-election delimitation were valid for the general elections of 2013 and also for LG elections under the subsequently elected Provincial Assemblies, it may bring the only possible solution to this conundrum.

Census and delimitation should be carried out and completed, but only before start of the next exercise (commencing with the next general elections) and not during the ongoing exercise.

I do not hold the honourable Election Commission responsible for the ongoing LG Elections fiasco. I do however feel that the citizens of Pakistan look toward the honourable Commission to ensure completion of the democratic process and devolution of power to our elected local representatives.

Sincerely,

Zafar Sahi

A Citizen of Pakistan.

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