While declaring illegal a provision in the Elections Act, 2017, the Supreme Court specified to apply this retrospectively, an unusual practice in law, and cancelled all official decisions made by Nawaz Sharif, most notably, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s picks for Senate candidates. 

In attempting to leave no loopholes through which Nawaz Sharif could reclaim power, the Supreme Court surely left in its wake a lot of loopholes in law; a mess that the rest of us have to deal with now. PML-N’s senate candidates, left unsure of their place, had to now apply to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), to determine their fate. In a truly unprecedented decision, the ECP has said that the party's nominees can contest the upcoming Senate polls as independent candidates. 

It is inexplicable why the ECP decided to set up such an extraordinary, unpredictable precedent, when there was an utterly easy legal solution- of allowing Raja Zafar-ul-Haq, the new chairman of PML-N, to re-issue the Senate tickets. For the ECP to take such a bold and legally difficult decision, when its jurisdiction is questionable, is unwise, especially when the situation is so politically delicate. To deny the democratically elected party to attach its name to its senators is unfair, not just to the party or the candidates, but also to the voters. 

Even if we let the principle of this act go, the ECP should have had the political foresight to see the medium of abuse this situation opens up. By declaring the PML-N candidates independent, the ECP has opened the door up for horse trading. This decision might have been to further ‘democracy’, but leaving a route open for horse trading and bribery would create an undemocratic and chaotic situation. It also sets up a deplorable precedent; setting a path where a party’s members can be forcefully declared independent can be a messy cyclical tool for politicians to use. 

It is unlikely that this step will disadvantage anyone but those opposing PML-N. Through foresight or coincidence, PML-N has already picked Nawaz loyalists for the Senate, who are unlikely to succumb to horse trading. This decision of the ECP, however, will lend support to conspiracies of bias and of external interference in politics, all of which will only serve to aid PML-N in its popularity.