The resignation of the PTI’s chief election commissioner should come as a wake-up call for a party that appears to have increasingly deviated from its agenda since its more than creditable showing in the 2013 elections. The resignation has come weeks before intra-party elections are due and gives fuel to speculations that the PTI leadership is not allowing a democratic system to be established within the party. Imran Khan has been a vocal advocate of democracy within parties, something we wholeheartedly agree with. But the election commission of the party does not appear to have an independent mandate. Commissioner Tasneem Noorani, along with two other members of the election commission, is said to have quit because he wanted elections to be held for all party positions, while party leaders were of the opinion that for most party positions, there should be nominations.
The PTI has long advocated transparency and accountability in the country’s electoral process. However, the electoral process of the party itself has struggled to remain controversy free and has caused internal rifts in the past. The PTI’s last elections, held in 2013, were marred by allegations of rigging. Investigations into those allegations led to Justice Wajiuddin Ahmed — who was critical of the elections and part of the tribunal that conducted an inquiry into them — being suspended by the party chairperson. Fast-forward to 2016, most party positions, except for those of the party chief, finance secretary and spokesperson, have remained dissolved since January, yet there is little clarity on how the PTI’s electoral process will be conducted. For a party that promised the dawn of a new kind of politics and convinced hundreds of thousands that change was possible, this state of affairs is disappointing. Most political parties in Pakistan are undemocratic and Imran Khan has always been an outspoken critic of dynastic politics. We hope the PTI proves, through the conduct of a transparent electoral process, that this is not the case. This will be a litmus test for transparency and accountability within the PTI. We hope it is up to the task.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2016.