The revelation of a senior official of the election commission of Pakistan (ECP) that more than 100 cases against the acceptance or rejection of nomination papers of national and provincial assembly candidates are still pending with high courts is shocking. It is beyond comprehension that when the polling day is just a week ahead, the candidates are still waiting for courts to either accept or reject their papers.

The sluggishness that the judiciary is exhibiting is not only affecting the election campaign of the candidates, at the same time it is posing a more significant threat: a potential delay to the conduct of July 25 elections on time. That the judiciary is not concerned even a bit with a possible delay in the polling process is evident from the fact that the Larkana bench has set July 24 the next date of hearing in one of such cases. While in most other cases pending before the benches it is far from clear if the benches of concerned high courts can pass judgments swiftly. The flipside is that if the courts show haste in deciding the cases, the chances of justice not being served will increase. And the incompetence of the benches does not end here; next hearing date of several cases is yet to be decided.

How can the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar overlook this matter? While CJP is interfering in the executive functions, his own house is not in order. Some time ago, when there were rumours that election might get delayed due to interference in the electoral process by unseen forces, CJP remarked that while he was there, “general election will be held on time and there will be no delay of even one day.” However, one of the many ironies of being overconfident is that one many a time also overlooks one’s faults. If the benches of high courts fail to entertain the applications of the candidates, the blame then lies on the judiciary for a possible delay in conducting elections.

As the benches are proving a failure in hearing and deciding on the nomination papers of the candidates, ECP is under heavy pressure. The chances are that ECP will find it impossible to print ballot papers and transport the same to the districts concerned by July 24. It is the fierce urgency of now that CJP needs to show restraint in judicial overreach. The gravity of the situation demands from the CJP to direct the benches to decide the pending cases sooner rather than later.