The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) has warned of “multiple constitutional, legal and operational challenges” to holding general elections within 90 days, expressing grave concerns that the crisis can potentially spiral into violence.
The body said it hoped that amid the constitutional deadlock, the Supreme Court would give its ruling on the constitutionality of the dissolution of the National Assembly without delay. The prevailing constitutional deadlock could “potentially” translate into violent expression, it cautioned.
"Public confusion and political divisions that have already arisen as a result can potentially translate into violent expression."
“Political parties have a great responsibility to manage their workers and make sure that political disagreements do not turn into violence especially ahead of an early election,” it said in a statement.
Read more: Candidates, parties asked to end election campaign
Warning that an early election “may not be a smooth process,” it said the “most critical factor” for the legitimacy of any election was the completion of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
FAFEN also warned of the constitutional and legal status of the current delimitation of National and Provincial Assembly seats, noting it had been carried out on the basis of provisional results of the 2017 census.
“FAFEN believes in the continuity of the democratic process as the only way to resolve the political disputes and disagreements particularly related to the country’s election system. Even sincere efforts to correct the election system-related issues that are devoid of a larger political consensus will be counter-productive and will add to post-election political instability.
Protecting the integrity of any future election is vital to strengthening democracy as well as ensuring the much-needed stability of political institutions that is critical to the country’s social and economic development,” it added.
Also read: ECP denies issuing any statement concerning early elections
The statement came as the ECP started considering options to carry out the delimitation of constituencies in the minimum possible time.
The commission had earlier come under attack from the PTI after one of its senior officials claimed that there were legal challenges and logistical issues in holding elections in three months.
However, the commission has now geared up to find ways and means to complete the required tasks at the earliest.
The ECP said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja was chairing meetings to discuss the constitutional crisis arising out of the assailed dissolution of the National Assembly and the ECP’s preparations in case the Supreme Court refused to set aside Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri’s ruling on the no-trust motion and the subsequent dissolution of the assembly.
He said the law provided for one month to invite objections followed by a process of hearing, adding that if the objections were heard simultaneously, it could save time.
Meanwhile, the ECP had to clarify that it had not issued any statement about holding of elections, but at the same time did not say whether it was ready to conduct the polls in three months.
Reacting to the remarks of an ECP official, PTI vice chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in a statement, said the commission was a constitutional institution, mandated to hold free and fair elections.
He said the prime minister had the constitutional authority to move toward elections by advising dissolution of the National Assembly anytime.
“If this is so why the ECP is not ready? What are they drawing salaries for? Why they continue to hold offices if they cannot meet their constitutional responsibility,” Mr Qureshi wondered.
He said the country was faced with a situation of uncertainty. “On one hand we see instability in Afghanistan while on the other, India was hell-bent upon disrupting peace in the region by steps like the accidental firing of a missile,” he added.
Noting that continued uncertainty was not in the country’s interest, the former foreign minister said the only solution was to hold timely free and fair elections. He said the remarks that the ECP was not prepared for timely elections was an admission of the commission’s failure and should be taken strong notice of.
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