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The involvement of the judiciary in elections has confused two separate constitutional

spaces reserved for two different constitutional bodies. It has made the elections appear
like an auxiliary function of the judiciary while the job of the ECP has been reduced to
issuing notifications directives and statements.
In this confusion the Election Commission has lost its freedom to make decisions and
act. The two functions not only need to be separated from each other the ECP also needs
some kind of immunity from judicial intervention. Elections are a time!bound exercise
and their administrators need ability agility and creativity in order to be able to respond
to any unpredictable situation at any hour. If solutions are to be subjected to long
procedural delays they are bound to prove useless.
The second most important area where the ECP needs to be empowered is its control over
the civil administration. It needs the services of an army of government employees to
perform duties at the polling station level. It needs to wean these seconded personnel off
any political affiliations guard them against threats of violence from vested interest
groups check any negligence on their part and make them work efficiently.
"eveloping other stakes in civil administration is important as peace and order in society
are a prere#uisite for elections. The ECP also needs the support of all government
departments including the law!enforcement agencies to ensure that the Code of Conduct
for pre!election campaigns is strictly followed that voters are not bribed or coerced and
that there is a level playing field for all contestants.
The ECP has not been able to ensure all of this to the satisfaction of the parties. $ne
likely reason is that this area too is contested by two constitutional bodies the ECP and
the caretaker government. They are both entrusted with the same responsibility of
ensuring neutrality in government. This duplication not only creates confusion but also
works as a disincentive for the ECP to take the initiative besides allowing the two to
blame failures on each other.
Interim set!ups have traditionally served as a constitutional window for the establishment
to intervene in the electoral process. The system of appointment was changed
substantially through the %&th 'mendment but caretaker set!ups too have failed to meet
expectations.
The ECP thus needs a new legal framework for its engagement with the civil
administration. There is no harm in taking a leaf from the Indian experience where no
caretakers are appointed and the election commission virtually takes over the entire state
machinery as soon as the election process begins and until the results are announced.
The Electoral (eforms Committee will have to avoid indulging in rephrasing old laws
and show some creativity. (eaders should be reminded that Pakistan achieved an
important milestone in its first!ever democratic transition from one elected government
to the next in )*%+. The subse#uent milestone should not be the next transition but
electoral reforms as only these can take polls and democracy a #ualitative step forward.
The writer works with Punjab Lok Sujag, a research and advocacy group.
Published in Dawn, July 2th, 2!"#
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