LAHORE – The caretaker prime minister and chief ministers of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are retired judges. The interim chief minister for Punjab is to be selected during the next few days as a result of the constitutional process which is already in progress. He may or not be a former judge, as those under consideration for the post also include some who belong to other walks of life.

Even if he is not a judge, majority of the caretakers come from the judiciary.

The Chief Election Commissioner and members of the Election Commission of Pakistan are also retired judges. Judicial officials are also being involved in the electoral process at the district level.

Hence, in a way, judges will be calling the shots during the next few months. And in case something goes wrong somewhere, the Supreme Court is there to take care of everything.

Entrusting such an important role to judges is a positive development, as now it can be expected that the May 11 polls will be absolutely free, fair and transparent and no party or individual will have any reservations about their impartiality.

But this will not be so unless the caretakers go extra mile to discharge their duties.

Those who believed that ‘democracy is the best revenge’ have played havoc with the country during the past five years of their misrule. They have bled the economy white and destroyed all important state institutions.

These institutions can be rebuilt only if honest and capable people are elected in the elections. And to make this possible, the caretaker governments and the Election Commission of Pakistan will have to be very watchful.

People who have looted the national wealth will try to return to assemblies at any cost to save themselves from accountability. They will try even to buy the votes. Other corrupt practices may also be employed to ‘bribe’ their way into the elected houses.

To frustrate such attempts the Election Commission would have to strictly enforce Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. At no cost should be tax dodgers, dual nationals, fake degree holders and people with criminal records be allowed to enter the assemblies.

Many argue that in the prevailing situation it is not possible to find ‘angels’ for the elected houses. The answer is that if it was really such a difficult task then the bipartisan committees which had reviewed the entire Constitution during the past five years should have struck down the provisions which are difficult to implement. Since no such step was taken, it is now incumbent upon the Election Commission of Pakistan to judge the eligibility or otherwise of the election contestants on the touchstone of these two articles.

It is generally believed that some 70 per cent of the members of the outgoing assemblies were not qualified for parliament seats. But they defeated all checks and reached the assemblies.

At present, most of the candidates to be put up by various parties will be the same old crooks, although from new platforms.

In view of the sensitivity of the situation, the ECP should also strictly enforce the code of conduct it had announced some weeks ago.

It should be ensured that the election expenditure limits are not crossed by the contestants. It is an appreciable step that the candidates are required to open only one account for all such expenses. But the real issue is whether they really abide by this provision.

It is a general practice that the candidates spend as much money as they can afford to ensure their victory, but then they file a wrong declaration with the ECP that they spent within limits.

Like the ECP, the caretaker governments also face serious challenges. Top most of the challenges is setting right the law and order situation.

Unless the threat of terrorism is dealt with, it will not be possible for the political parties to hold election rallies or address even smaller gatherings. Similarly, people will fear going to polling stations to use their right to vote. Killings in Karachi have become order of the day and about a dozen people are killed there every day. During the ongoing operation target killers belonging to various political parties have been arrested.

These people should be investigated at the earliest possible and awarded exemplary punishments. Indiscriminate action against all criminals is indispensable to restore normalcy in the city of lights.

Special attention should also be paid to the situation in Balochistan, where people belonging to Hazara community were killed by criminals in several incidents.

Similarly, special measures should be taken to deal with terrorists in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.