LAHORE - Opinion is divided about the justification for the PPP decision to boycott the presidential election, slated for July 30. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says the decision is contrary to democratic traditions, while PPP candidate for the top constitutional office – Raza Rabbani - said his party had decided to stay away from the electoral process ‘to save the federation

While arguments for and against the decision will continue, the Election Commission of Pakistan has made all necessary arrangements for the election of the man who is supposed to be the ‘symbol of national unity’ for the next five years.

Some people are of the view that the presidential election could have been held even after Eid with the approval of the Supreme Court and there would have been no crisis of any kind.

True the ECP had set the election date to meet a constitutional requirement. Admitted that the apex court was also empowered to change the election date, as sought in a petition moved by the ruling PML-N. But the question is why nobody thought of holding the election after Eid so that all legislators were able to exercise their right to vote without any inconvenience.

To make it possible, what the ECP – or the government – was required to do was file a petition with the Supreme Court informing it that a large number of legislators had gone to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah and would be returning home after Eid. The court could have been requested to delay the presidential election for a few days after Eid to enable all voters to be present to express their opinion in favour of their favourite candidate.

The court could also be told that it was just a coincidence that the presidential election was falling on a day in the month of fasting.

Article 254 of the Constitution could have been relied upon to justify the demand. (This article says: Failure to comply with requirement as to time does not render an act invalid. “When any act or thing is required by the Constitution to be done within a particular period and it is not done within that period, the doing of the act or thing shall not be invalid or otherwise ineffective by reason only that it was not done within that period.)”

It would have been a very strong argument that an elected president is also there – and will stay on till September 8 – so there will be no crisis even if the election was delayed by a few days.

There was no reason why the apex court would not feel convinced by such an argument and use its powers to defer the poll.

The result of the election would be the same, no matter whether it is held now, after a few days or a few weeks. The presidency will go to the PML-N man.

But the boycott decision has made the ‘symbol of national unity’ rather controversial at the very outset.

The moves of both the PML-N and the PPP in the wake of the presidential election may lead to some changes in the political alignments. The ruling party, for example, has got an excuse to join hands with the MQM which otherwise was a ‘political untouchable’ for it.

At an all-party conference in London about five, six years ago, the PML-N had strongly criticised the MQM because of its past conduct and had asked all the participants to pledge not to join hands with it ever again.

But the situation has forced the PML-N to change its stance and seek support from the very same party.

Interestingly, the delegation that visited the MQM offices in Karachi was led by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, whose son is married to the daughter of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. This should explain how seriously the PML-N needs the MQM’s support.

There are speculations that the possibility of the MQM joining the federal cabinet at a later stage cannot be ruled out. The investigation MQM chief Altaf Hussain is facing in London will leave no option for his party to become part of the ruling setup.

Because of the PML-N’s decision to seek MQM’s support, the Jamaat-i-Islami has got a justification to throw its weight behind the PTI’s presidential candidate, although it had supported Mian Nawaz Sharif in prime minister’s election.

The PPP has revived its contacts with its former allies and now the PML-Q and the ANP have also decided not to take part in the presidential election.