After lambasting the Returning Officers (RO) drawn from the judiciary, and accusing everyone from the retired Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry to the lower Supreme court staff in the wake of the 2013 elections the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf have asked the judiciary to once more send their judicial officers for election duty in the upcoming local government elections – a request that the judiciary has firmly, and quite expectedly, refused.

The fact that they undertook responsibilities in the 2013 general election is a one-off event anyway. Election policy maintains that the judiciary shall not be involved in elections – the judicial officers were tasked as ROs only at the request of political parties. Now, despite the fact that the PTI and PPP pinned the majority of the blame for alleged irregularities on the judicial RO’s they still want them to monitor the elections instead of the bureaucracy, which usually handles the responsibility. The parties feel, not without reason, that the bureaucracy is too closely affiliated with the provincial government to be impartial, and is insufficiently trained in legal matters, which affect their abilities on Election Day. The mooted solution of using federal bureaucrats solves the first concern – partially – and leaves the second one intact. The fact that the ‘impartial’ judiciary was so heavily implicated by certain parties goes to show that regardless of affiliation, questions over bias will remain, justified or not.

Whether it is the judiciary, the bureaucracy, or even the dedicated ECP staff that conducts the election; it is clear that political parties have very little confidence in the electoral process. Procedural questions such as this should be set in stone, not debated before every election. The uncertainty over such matters means that the participants will never be fully prepared for their role, which will lead to ineptitude on Election Day. Furthermore, such piecemeal measures leave ample space for unmerited claims of impropriety to operate in. The parties and the ECP must not argue these matters election by election, the electoral procedure is flawed, and it is high time a concrete and comprehensive reform was initiated by the parliament.