Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has expressed readiness for early elections. He did so at an iftar-dinner he hosted for opposition parliamentarians on Wednesday at Prime Minister’s House. This readiness has gained significance after the Supreme Court issued him a notice of a charge of contempt of court for not writing the letter to the Swiss authorities asking for a revival of the corruption cases against President Asif Zardari. His predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was removed from office after being disqualified from membership of the National Assembly because he was found guilty by the court of contempt for the same failure. Though elections, if called now, would hardly be early, for the present assemblies have almost completed their tenures, holding elections in early November (the earliest possible time) requires that the Prime Minister advise a dissolution. Incidentally, this would save Mr Ashraf from writing the letter, though it is possible that the caretaker Prime Minister, whom he is to name in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, may do so.

However, a caretaker PM will also have the excuse that this is something that should be left to the government emerging as a result of the election. It should also be noted that the present government has been concentrating on its own survival since Mr Gilani first received the contempt notice, that it has ignored the problems of the people, and has done virtually nothing to provide common relief. Though there is plentiful time before elections fall due next year, the government has done nothing about the energy crisis which has led to loadshedding which has cost so many their jobs, the menace of the foreign interference behind target killings in Karachi and Baloch separatism, the unrest in that province, and the decline in law and order elsewhere, and the incessant inflation caused by the spike in oil prices.

Another advantage of going for a fresh election is that, in Mr Gilani’s case, they were among the options the court itself gave. This would thus allow the government to stop its confrontation with the judiciary, and allow it to end the agony the nation is facing. This would also stop the way of those forces from which it claims democracy is in danger. Unless fresh elections are held, the backstage players will have a finger in the pie.