The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from time to time comes in for considerable criticism, usually when one or other of the political parties comes under its scrutiny. Today all 352 political parties are on its radar as it seeks to clean the electoral stables prior to next year’s General Election. On Friday 8th December it regained the power to de-list political parties that fail to meet the requirements of the new-ish Elections Act. The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has restored to the ECP the notice it issued to all parties and there is now going to be a winnowing out.
The ECP had issued a final notice to all parties saying that they had to submit a list of at least 2,000 members and deposit an enlistment fee of Rs200,000 by December 2nd. Failure to comply with the requirements of the Elections Act of 2017 would result in the delisting of the parties. This has our support, and some electoral housekeeping is long overdue. Whilst we have no desire whatsoever in any way to impede the forward movement of our fledgling democracy, order has to be brought to a chaotic situation. There are dozens of parties that are dormant that need to be struck off and there are others that are political parties on paper only, essentially vanity operations made up of an individual and their followers — little better than a fan-club.
None of those vulnerable to de-enlistment can cry ‘foul’ as the ECP has been careful to issue not only prior official notice but has taken out advertising in a range of newspapers to remind parties of their obligations. Political expression is the right of every individual, but as with most things there is a need for regulation and order. So long as parties are compliant then they are free to try to win over adherents, campaign and seek election to any of the federal or provincial assemblies. Indeed we welcome political diversity and anything that challenges the system of elective feudalism that currently prevails has to be good for the country and the democratic project generally. We urge the ECP to make haste — there is an election on the horizon.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2017.