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Election Commission Woes – by Ahmed Iqbalabadi

Working  in the Banking sector which has been rocked by the ongoing crisis of confidence in the region, I have learnt one thing from senior bankers: “Do not rock the boat, but do throw ideas that are not implementable but give you attention”. For example in a conference call with a client, they will throw an idea which fellow bankers will applaud yet they know it is something which is inconceivable. Everyone just tries to add on to files of transactions trying to show the good work they are doing. Our Supreme Court seems to be going the same route though they don’t have to. No one can fire them from their jobs nor can one question their verdicts forcefully. They are the ones in an actual win-win situation.

The recent directive of the Supreme Court to take strict action against fake degree holders has left the Election Commission in a fix as the directive is not just vague but also open ended. Firstly the directive of the Supreme Court came in relation to appeal of Muhammad Rizwan Gill, a PML-N MPA who was declared disqualified by the LHC. The directive was more focused on the issue of Jamshed Dasti, about whom all the media and judiciary remains fixated.

Consider the consequences going forward: we will see media chanting non-compliance of Supreme Court directive; followed by CJ and most likely Justice Ramday fire at non-compliance by the Election Commission without taking into purview the lack of directives on how to implement; then Election Commission will request for procedures to implement the directives and so on an so forth. For the next 2-3 months, we will see a number of headlines on the matter. Will anyone question the Supreme Court that considering this to be a “big issue”, why didn’t it lay down detailed steps in order to do so? We have to be practical in what we say and propose, else what we are doing is just playing to the galleries and receiving all the accolade for a “tareekhi faisla” without having a clue as to how the “faisla” will have an impact on our “mustaqbil”!

EC in a fix over fake degrees verdict

Dawn, June 28, 2010

ISLAMABAD, June 27: The Supreme Court’s directive to the Election Commission to take strict action against legislators holding fake degrees has raised questions about the powers of the commission to act on its own against members of parliament.

Officials of the commission are said to be in a fix about the way to implement the order which, according to an independent analyst, is ‘vague and open-ended’.

Under the law, the EC cannot de-seat a legislator unless asked to do so by the chairman of the Senate or the speaker of the national or a provincial assembly.

When asked how the Election Commission looked at the order, its secretary Ishtiaq Khan said: “It all depends on the apex court’s detailed judgment which the commission is yet to receive.” He said that so far the commission had come to know about the court order only from media reports and it could not comment on the mechanism of its implementation.

Under the law, the Election Commission could not on its own take action against a sitting legislator, he said.

The Supreme Court ordered the Election Commission on Thursday to take action against legislators accused of having used fake degrees to contest the election.

The court said the commission was required to depute an officer to supervise the exercise, while sessions judges who would conduct the trials should conclude the probe in three months in consonance with the spirit of election laws.

The EC had taken the position that it could not act against lawmakers unless the Senate chairman or speakers of the National Assembly and provincial assemblies sent references against them. It pointed out that under the amended Article 62 of the Constitution, a person could not be disqualified for being corrupt unless a court declared him to be so.

The amended article says: “A person shall not be qualified to be elected as member of the parliament unless, he is sagacious, righteous, and nonprofligate, honest and ameen; there being no declaration to the contrary by a ‘court of law’ ”.

Barrister Zafarullah Khan, a constitutional lawyer, said that in case of a dilemma, EC officials could go back to the Supreme Court, seeking its guidance for the implementation of the ruling.

Zafar Ali Shah, another lawyer, said: “I have not gone through the detailed judgment, but believe the court should have laid down some mechanism for implementation of its order.” An official said the court appeared to have given the judgment without going through laws under which the EC acted.

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Ahmed Iqbalabadi

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