With the President’s announcement of the date for general elections (May 11), the entire country that is already in the grip of election fever is eagerly looking forward to the first ever transition from one civilian governing setup to another in the hope that the next lot would be more attuned to addressing the daunting, multiple challenges facing it. Soon after the announcement, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) also came out with a detailed schedule about the filing and scrutiny of nomination papers, taking the process of polling a step further. There are firm indications that elections to the provincial assemblies would also be held the same day; all the provincial assemblies already stand dissolved, and the ECP has vowed to follow the same schedule that has the support of most politicians in the country. For the issues that yet need to be settled before the nation could go to the poll, like the selection of caretaker Prime Minister and Chief Ministers of Punjab and Balochistan, there exist constitutional means to resolve them. After the two main parties in the country, the ruling PPP and the opposition PML-N, had failed to agree to a candidate for Prime Ministership, the matter was referred to the parliamentary committee constituted for the purpose. It is left just with one day to decide, failing which the choice would rest with the ECP. The committee has already considered two names, Justice (r) Mir Hazar Khan Khosa and Rasul Bux Palejo and could agree to neither of them, leaving Justice (r) Nasir Aslam Zahid and Dr Ishrat Hussain in the field.
Meanwhile, PML-N President Mian Nawaz Sharif has expressed serious reservations over the candidate for the caretaker Chief Ministership that has been chosen for Sindh. He fears that, like Sindh where parties, he alleges, have colluded to pick up the candidate of their own liking, Balochistan is in the process of witnessing the same behind-the-scene ‘dirty’ play. While drawing the ECP and judiciary’s attention to these manoeuvrings, Mian Nawaz has warned that this would subvert the dream of free, fair and transparent elections. He has even alluded that the matter would be taken up with the Supreme Court.
For all these preparations, there remains the lurking fear of terrorism and violence in the minds of the people that anti-democratic forces could launch to frustrate the people’s aspirations. The TTP’s reported warning has reinforced the fear. The ECP plans to set up 80,000 polling stations to be located far and wide across the country. No doubt, the prevailing situation, particularly in sensitive areas like FATA, KPK, Balochistan and Karachi poses a formidable challenge for the law enforcement agencies and the army which would be assisting them to ensure a peaceful balloting. Hopefully, they would bring their best to the fore and be able to see the nation through the process as peacefully as possible.