The resignation from his post as Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) by Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim is obviously not a welcome development. Whereas it demonstrates principle on the part of a man who has consistently been hailed for his integrity and uprightness, this is also the first real stumble in the course of a democratic process that has so far proceeded fairly smoothly, despite a few downs that, almost inevitably, came along the way. The resignation will of course add to debate over a presidential election which should never have been the least bit controversial anyway, given that the success of the PML-N candidate, Mamnoon Hussain, was always guaranteed. There is, of course, also plenty of leeway within the Constitution on scheduling for the poll, which “shall be held not earlier than sixty days and not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of the President in office” (Article 41 (4)).
The Constitution does however make it clear there can be no outside interference, from any direction, with the powers of the CEC in this respect very clearly laid out. It is this that Justice Ebrahim appears to be attempting to stress — the say of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the matter should not have been challenged. The former CEC, who took the country through its first peaceful democratic transfer of power, is also said to be displeased with the response of other ECP members and the consequent failure to act, as he saw things, according to the law. The legal debate on the whole matter can probably go on for a very long time indeed. But there are some lessons we must take on board. They will serve us well in the future. The most important among these is the need to follow the Constitution in all matters — in letter and in spirit and this also means that the boundaries that it mandates for all institutions of state must be respected by the various pillars of state. The Constitution lays down in much detail precisely what is to be done in various situations. There is very little ambiguity on most issues and simply adhering to what the Constitution says should in most cases keep us well out of the trouble we appear to tumble in to every now and then.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2013.
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