Following the PTI’s intense protest and agitation after 2013 general elections, the word ‘resignation’ has somehow become an essential part of country’s political discourse. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has introduced a unique political tradition of asking individuals to tender their resignations on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations. Last year, in order to make PM Nawaz Sharif resign, it launched a strong agitational movement against the incumbent PML-N government in the country. During his 126-day long sit-in in Islamabad, PTI chairman Imran Khan have constantly been making deadlines for PM’s resignation. At the same time, in order to put more pressure on the government, all the federal legislators of PTI also collectively submitted their resignations to the Speaker of the National Assembly in Islamabad.

Now, after the recent two verdicts of Election Tribunals in Punjab, PTI has also asked all the members of ECP to step down by resigning. Strangely, the ‘harbingers of change’ have been acting as the sole arbiters of national interest for some time. MQM chief Altaf Hussain is best known for his political summersaults. He has also announced to resign from his party position many times. Now, this month, probably following in the footsteps of its leader, all the federal and provincial legislators of MQM have also handed over their resignation to the Speaker of National Assembly. Apparently, they have some reservations regarding the ongoing operation in Karachi by the LEAs. However, their actual anxiety is quite understandable.

A few days ago, as soon as the Election Tribunals in Punjab declared the election on two National Assembly seats (NA-122, NA-154) null and void. PTI readily asked all the ECP members to step down. Indeed, it is the magnanimity and kindness of PTI that they did not demand the resignation of the CEC. PTI has also written a letter to the ECP demanding the resignations of its four members. Maintaining that it is not answerable to any political party, the ECP has turned down this unconstitutional demand made by the PTI. Now, in order to press its demand, PTI has also decided to employ his favourite political tool- the sit-in. It has announced to stage another sit-in outside the ECP building in Islamabad on October 4 for this purpose.

The Election Commission of Pakistan is a constitutional body entrusted with the task of conducting free, fair and impartial elections in the country. The Chief Election Commissioner and other members of ECP enjoy security of their offices just like the judges of the superior courts in Pakistan. They cannot be removed from their respective seats except in the manner prescribed under Article 209 of the constitution i.e. through a reference to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). Therefore, now if PTI wishes to remove all ECP members, then it should formally ask the SJC to initiate an inquiry against these members instead of announcing another sit-in in Islamabad.

The JC report has already validated the overall result of the 2013 general elections. It has rejected the allegations, levelled by the PTI, regarding the massive rigging and irregularities in these election. Similarly, most of the election petitions, filed by the PTI candidates in various Election Tribunals across the country, have also been either dismissed or rejected. Now, it would not be fair to judge the credibility of 2013 general elections, and the integrity of ECP members on the sole basis of recent two verdicts of Election Tribunals in Punjab.

The ECP is the premier election body which formulates policies and makes crucial decisions to conduct free and impartial elections in the country. It generally supervises the electoral process at the macro level instated of concerning itself with the nitty-gritty of administrative affairs in each constituency. There exists a hierarchy of election administration starting right from Polling Officers to Presiding Officers, and then from RO’s, DRO’s, to Provincial Election Commissioners. Therefore, legally, the ECP members cannot be held accountable for any electoral irregularity in a single constituency, or a particular polling station. Now after the recent two verdict of Election Tribunals in Punjab, the PTI should have asked the ECP to proceed against the individuals who are responsible for these irregularities. Similarity, if certain electoral irregularities have been discovered only in Punjab then, logically, how other three provincial members of ECP can be asked to step down? What plausible explanation can PTI provide for this absurdity?

The incumbent four members of ECP will retire in June next year after completing their constitutional tenure of service. Therefore, there is no point in launching an intense agitational movement for the early retirement of these members. PTI should also keep in mind that, in case the incumbent members resign, it would hardly have any role in the appointment of new members of ECP. Under the Constitution of Pakistan, a Parliamentary Committee, comprising the members from both Treasury and Opposition Benches, confirmed the persons nominated by the Prime Minster in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition in National assembly. Finally, the President appoints the persons recommended by the Parliamentary Committee as the CEC or a member of ECP. In the event of any difference between the government and PTI on the issue of appointment of new ECP members, there would be another political crisis in Pakistan. This situation would also jeopardise the smooth conduct of by-polls and forthcoming local bodies elections in the country.

The recent JC report has pointed out a lot of electoral irregularities committed during the last general election. In fact, no election in the history of country has been free from similar flaws and shortcomings. There is no denying the fact that our entire election machinery needs extensive overhauling. Therefore, every political party should play its role in introducing electoral reforms to ensure an efficient electoral regime in the country. They should make some serious efforts to improve the institutional capacity of ECP instead of undermining it by humiliating its members. Reportedly, three ECP members are prepared to tender their resignations in the face of current criticism by the PTI. However, if they so resign, it would serve no purpose beyond fulfilling an unreasonable demand made by a political party which is behaving more like a stubborn, spoiled and willful child.

Switching over from its current ‘agitation mode’ to another normal mode, PTI should come out of the ‘election state of mind’. Now, it should behave like a mature political party. By focusing on the substantial public issues, it should play its role as an active and responsible opposition party. Currently, Pakistan is facing many internal and external challenges. The current irresponsible and impulsive attitude of PTI will get it nowhere. Instead, it would adversely affect its public image, credibility and popularity in the country. It is quite ironic that the very political party, which has been talking about producing a political tsunami in the country, now looks quite busy in trying to make a storm in a teacup most of the time.