Calculated and uncalculated risks

Much of what governments do and opposition groups propose is calculated for electoral advantage

Editorial September 28, 2017
PTI Chairman Imran Khan. PHOTO: FILE

Much of what governments do and opposition groups propose is calculated for electoral advantage. Never is that more true than in fixing the date of an election — no matter how partisan such a motive may be. The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is clearly unmoved by Imran Khan’s latest call for snap polls in the country — a move that is unlikely to benefit any opposition party, including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). So it is hardly surprising that all major parties as well as those allied to the PTI have thumbed their nose at the possibility of an early election and declared themselves as firm fixed term proponents.

But the PTI leader and some of his aides are adamant, citing what they view as a paralysis of the government, the absence of ministers from their offices and the struggle for quorum in parliament. The trouble with this argument is that successive governments have been afflicted with the same lethargy.

While a snap poll is the prerogative of a government, its timing is a matter of judgment. Not all call it wisely though. Theresa May, the British premier, had a narrow escape when she called one this summer. Perhaps Japan’s PM will fare better in his early poll gamble. Even if PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is tempted, or persuaded, to go for a snap poll, there are sufficient hurdles to contend with — the biggest of which is Article 58 which empowers him to dissolve the National Assembly but not the provincial assemblies. Only the four chief ministers can determine the fate of the assemblies under Article 112. Then there are political impediments especially in provinces like Sindh where the PML-N is not in power. Independent observers are worried that the existing electoral laws and not the Election Bill 2017 would be invoked in case of a snap poll, raising doubts about the transparency of the whole exercise.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 28th, 2017.

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