ISLAMABAD - The progress in the preparation of fresh voter lists remains stalled amidst the reported reluctance by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to follow the Supreme Court’s directives, as the deadline for finalising the rolls passes today (Thursday).

In December last year, the Supreme Court, while hearing Imran Khan’s petition for removing the 38 million bogus and unverified voters, had ordered the ECP to prepare the Electoral Rolls (ER) 2011 by February 23. The three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had expressed dissatisfaction over the commission’s performance and warned of strict action against ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmed Khan, if voter lists were not prepared by February 23.

On last January 12, the SC had rejected ECP’s ‘request’ for a three-month extension in the deadline till May 2012, but the SC, while expressing its annoyance, ordered the commission to ensure the Implementation of the earlier orders.

On January 23, the ECP called a controversial ‘consultative meeting’ of political parties and set up a self-declared deadline of May 25 for the process, in clear violation of the SC orders.

Both Ishtiak Ahmed Khan and Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Hamid Ali Mirza claimed the ECP was ‘as important as SC’ and seemingly attempted to demonstrate the political parties’ ‘support’ for the electoral body in what appeared as an event described by the opposition as well as pro-government politicians as bizarre and uncalled for.

Last year, the commission had repeatedly claimed that it would prepare the latest electoral rolls by December. Citing monsoon floods, which hit only six districts of Sindh, dengue fever in Lahore and ‘challenging’ security situation in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), the ECP backtracked from its promise and fixed a new deadline of February 23.

But, the electoral body yet again has failed to fulfil the task, despite spending millions of rupees on publicity campaigns and related modalities.

“We were expecting that the ER 2011 would be ready by November or December for sure. This undue and prolonged delay has no moral or professional justification,” said Pakistan People’s Party Member National Assembly Jamshed Dasti. He demanded the apex court to initiate proceedings against the ECP bosses over their failure to prepare transparent voter lists in the light of the court orders. “They (ECP management) have ditched the entire nation. They let us down. They must be taken to task. Where have all those bigmouthed statements vanished? If public trust on electoral process is to be revived, the ECP should be held accountable and it should be purged from dark sheep.”

Dasti is among the 28 candidates, who won the by-elections that the CEC Justice (r) Hamid Ali Mirza had conducted during the period when the ECP was incomplete after the passage of 18th Amendment. The by-polls drew criticism from senior politicians, like Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, and remained controversial till the Parliament validated the same.

Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) Secretary General Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri suggested a complete overhaul of the ECP’s top hierarchy owing to the questions raised over the credibility and capability of the incumbent management to hold transparent elections.

“It seems that the ECP has deliberately delayed the preparation of electoral rolls in order to hold the Senate polls on an electoral college that is a product of bogus votes. Had the fresh voter lists been ready by February 23, the political parties would have demanded conducting Senate polls through a fresh electoral college based upon new voter lists, which was only possible after the general elections. The ECP has given the government breathing space by using delaying tactics in preparing ER 2011,” he told The Nation.

“The present ECP hierarchy should be shown the door if electoral process is to be made sound. There are reports that they have colluded with the government to get favours like extensions in tenures for following the ruling elite’s agenda.”