It is strange that while the opposition parties have been critical of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s tactics of holding a long march and a sit-in these very political parties should be taking a cue from him and staging their own sit-in before Parliament House and marching to the Pakistan Election Commission (ECP) office. It is stranger still that the PML-N, JI, JUI-F and a number of other parties, which had joined together to do so, did not have anything to protest against while these are forms of agitation of last resort. Instead, they went there to express their full confidence in the ECP and urge that the commission would have sufficient powers and authority to be able to hold free and fair elections. In the resolution the opposition parties passed at the sit-in, they asked for the replacement of provincial Governors appointed on political grounds by the would-be caretaker government, besides demanding that certain bureaucrats holding key positions should also be given other assignments. However, these political parties had never earlier presented a petition to the ECP to that effect, though some of them have been voicing these demands in public statements. They should have simply put them down on a piece of paper and sent them to the commission, rather than trying to dramatise the issue into a form of protest. Interestingly, the opposition leadership could not keep up the momentum: the period of sit-in, earlier billed for two days, was drastically cut short in view of the rain; most of the main leaders either left the scene after the sit-in or did not participate at all, leaving it to the second or third tier of leadership to proceed to the ECP building and hand over the wish-list. Seeing their leadership’s lukewarm attitude to the protest, the crowd also thinned out.

The resolution, which they called declaration, also asserted that the parties participating in the sit-in supported the ECP in carrying out a fresh delimitation of constituencies and door-to-door voter check in Karachi in the light of the Supreme Court verdict. The resolution also condemned those ‘extra-constitutional and non-political forces’ which wanted a revamping of the ECP with the ultimate objective of delaying the general elections to serve their ulterior motives.

Nevertheless, the sit-in and the resolution the participating parties passed served at least to highlight their commitment to the holding of free, fair and transparent polls in an atmosphere devoid of political and administrative pressure, but also that they take place in time and not delayed as anti-democratic forces are striving for. It hardly needs mentioning that the entire nation – the political parties irrespective of whether they are part of the ruling alliances or in the opposition, the civil society and, above all, the masses – is eager that the democratic process must continue without any interruption. Other powerful forces in the country: the judiciary; the ECP; and the army are, thankfully, on board. One would hope that the coming general elections result in weeding out the corrupt, the dishonest and the incompetent from the ranks of politicians.