The decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to go ahead with the printing of the revised nomination papers for the general elections due within a couple of months despite objections of the PPP-led government to the amendments was both courageous and the need of the hour. The general public had gained the impression that the ECP would not be able to withstand pressure from the powerful political parties in view of the fact that the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) had himself while, on the one hand, setting a deadline for the President to approve the revisions had, on the other, surprisingly announced that lacking the approval the ECP would order the printing of old nomination papers. The proposals to which the Law Ministry had objected were designed to make for more transparent scrutiny of the candidates and were in line with the constitutional requirements; for instance, the candidates were reportedly required to give details of travels they and their family members had made abroad, details of their taxes, etc.

It should be absolutely clear that the nation is not merely interested in the change of political guard through elections, but is eager to see only those who have a clean record of personal life come into power. For that reason, the people want names of the bad eggs to be excised at the initial stage of the filing of nomination papers; for once in the field, they are liable to exercise influence on the strength of money or biradari (clan) to get elected. Therefore, the ECP’s announcement that in exercise of its constitutional powers it would have the nomination papers with proposed revisions printed came as a great relief to them. It explained the legal basis for this decision: “it is the mandate of the ECP to conduct free, fair and transparent election under (i) article 218 of the constitution; (ii) the approval of the President under section 107 of the Representation of the People Act is merely a formality; and (iii) the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan has stated in the Worker’s Party case judgment that the ECP ‘is empowered and independent to do all that is necessary to fulfil its constitutional mandate and instruct that it do so.’

By doing so, the ECP has gone some way towards helping sustain the confidence of the people in its being aboveboard. The doubts and suspicions of those who were of the view that, constituted as it is, the ECP would find it hard to make meaningful moves free from the political parties’ manipulations have not entirely been removed. In fact, the dissenting note of Election Commissioner Roshan Isani, a nominee of the Sindh government, on the ECP’s decision to print nomination papers in revised form has kept their apprehensions alive. In the socio-political scenario prevailing in the country, it falls on the judiciary as well as the media to keep a watchful eye on every move that the ECP makes to ensure that the nation’s aspirations are fulfilled.