Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has made an important breakthrough. He has been able to persuade the opposition to hold talks to agree on the appointment of a new chief election commissioner (CEC) and also stated he would like a consensus candidate for this crucial post so that there is no squabbling between the parties. The proposal by the prime minister was reportedly put to the PML-N after Ashraf met with senior PPP leaders at the Governor House in Lahore. A PML-N spokesman has welcomed the offer and it seems as if the wall of thick ice between the two parties has begun to melt a little with the Punjab government receiving the PM at the airport, as protocol demands.
The matter of who will hold the post of CEC is an important one. It is crucial for the sake of democracy in our country that the person, who presides over the general election, due by early 2013, is an unbiased one. Otherwise, we will inevitably run into ugly allegations of rigging and tampering. This is, of course, something that needs to be avoided at all costs. Our democracy needs stability and order if it is to survive and we need to acquire viability so that we can live without the constant threat of disruption.
The last CEC nominee put up by the PPP had been opposed by the PML-N, which had suggested several names of their own. The 20th Amendment lays down that the CEC be selected after discussion between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. There has been an argument over whether this procedure had been properly followed, following the retirement of the last CEC in March this year.
The conviction of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani pushed this matter to the sidelines of national politics, however, it is important that it has been revived by Ashraf, who has also done well to win the opposition over. The law demands that the matter be put before the parliamentary committee after a candidate is agreed on. If no consensus is reached, the matter must go to vote. We hope, though, that the PPP and the PML-N will reach an agreement enabling things to move forward smoothly as preparations begin in earnest for what must be a fair and free election.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2012.
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