ECP has failed by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has failed to discharge its constitutional mandate. Judicial Commission (JC) and Election Tribunals (ET) in their reports and verdicts have maintained that there were substantial irregularities in last general elections. There were also widespread allegations of irregularities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa local government elections. Because of these failures many political parties are asking for removal of provincial election commissioners either through voluntary resignations or a petition with Supreme Judicial Council. I support this demand but not for the above reasons. Let me try to explain.

ECP is the constitutional entity that is responsible for registration and regulation of political parties in Pakistan. ECP has failed to fulfill this important duty which is evident from the dilapidated condition of political parties. Because of this failure I demand election commissioners to resign from their positions.

ECP requires all political parties to submit their party constitutions as well as any amendments to it. But they have never bothered to ascertain whether parties are operating based on these constitutions. In almost all political parties top leaderships are completely ignoring party constitutions whether it is appointment of party officers, management of accounts, and award of tickets. It is this failure of ECP which has resulted in political parties being reduced to family enterprise or personality cults.

ECP requires all political parties to have intra-party elections after regular intervals. But it is just a formality and it has never inspected these elections. There are more irregularities in intra-party elections than general elections but no one seems to care about it. The whole nation seems to be resigned to the fact that Nawaz Sharif will be leading PML N; anyone with last name Bhutto will be leading PPP and for that a person may have to change his/her name; JUI F will be led by Maulana Mufit Mahmood & sons; ANP by Bacha Khan family; and PTI by Imran Khan. To hold a parliamentary position a person has to be minimum 25 years old but to become Chairman of PPP it is alright to be just 19 years old. Similarly, there is no term limit about holding top position in a political parties. Apart from that relatives and close friends of party office bearers are given preference over ideological grass roots members when it comes to choosing government advisers or party tickets. This breeds cronyism and nepotism inside parties that are eventually reflected in government as well and it is mostly because of failure of ECP to regulate party elections.

When candidates file their nomination papers their eligibility are ascertained through article 62 and 63 of the constitution by returning officer appointed by ECP. But we have seen that after elections many parliamentarians are de-seated because of fake degree, criminal and corruption charges. All of us have seen news reports of hard core criminals that are members of political parties apprehended by law enforcement agencies in Layari or Federal B Area in Karachi. NAB list contains names of many politicians that have deprived this nation billions of rupees. Despite these facts ECP has never issued a show cause notice to political parties to ask them an explanation why people of questionable repute were given tickets and party position. Or what actions are taken by the parties to ensure that honest and capable people will be given tickets through a proper process of vetting? In the absence of such measures infusion of criminals will continue into political parties that are operated on the principles of organized crime.

Political activists in Pakistan are not provided guidance and education about their rights as members of a political party. ECP has never conducted any seminar or distributed materials to educated political activists to hold their party officials accountable. Almost all material is related to contesting of election and more specifically Election Day. Media and non-governmental organizations FAFEN and PILDAT also do not make any efforts in empowering the party members in managing it. Without this support it is difficult for party activists to seek redress for malpractices and unconstitutional decisions made by party leaders. There are more irregularities committed inside parties than the Election Day. Because of these malpractices the ballot paper does not really represent the wishes of party members.

When parliamentary committee for electoral reforms was formed. I sent proposal about political party reforms to members of the committee. But since most of these parliamentarians are beneficiary of current system it seems none of them support reforms of the parties. Their exclusive focus seems to be Election Day and tabulation of results. This will not solve the problem faced by this nation because the people elected are not truly representative. Most of these people have allegiance and loyalty to the party leadership because they gave tickets and provided them a platform for political power.

Funding of political parties is another area that is shrouded in mystery. ECP does require political parties to file audited accounts but it has never conducted an on-site inspection of materials. Right now political parties are held hostage by oligarchs that have vested interests to protect.

We cannot have good governance unless and until ECP performs its duty of regulating political parties as public institutions rather than to allow them to operate as for profit enterprises. We are leading a struggle for reforms in PTI and will file petitions with ECP if party leadership did not address our concerns. Our demands are that party constitution should be respected; merit and due process adopted in award of tickets; and party ideology demonstrated in all political decisions. All current office holders of the party are illegitimate and unconstitutional and we have repeatedly informed Chairman Imran Khan about it. We are inspired to pursue this path because reforms of parties are a key milestone to cross for Pakistan to progress. We are hoping media will provide us adequate coverage so that a national consensus could be created for this important political agenda. We are confident success in one party will have a snowball effect inspire activists of other parties to force change as well.

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