Editor’s note: We condemn Pakistan army-backed Supreme Court judges’ illegal and unconstitutional interference in the affairs of another autonomous institution, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The Supreme Court’s January order for the ECP to postpone the Feb 20 by-elections (as per the demands of army-backed politicians Imran Khan and Munawar Hasan) is one of several examples of illegal interference by the Supreme Court in the ECP’s affairs. We are sharing with our readers the contents of ECP secretary’s resignation which point towards the gravity of the issue.
Ex-secretary assails `attempts to subjugate` poll commission
by Khawar Ghumman
ISLAMABAD, March 5: In a hard-hitting eight-page resignation letter submitted on March 1, Election Commission’s secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan has criticised ‘unnamed’ institutions for their undue interference in the affairs of the commission.
Although he did not name the institutions encroaching upon the autonomy of the ECP, he made an indirect reference to the commission’s recent face-off with the Supreme Court.
In the letter, a copy of which is with Dawn, Mr Khan said: “Colossal damage was done to this great country in the past as well by a few megalomaniacs having a false and misconceived notion that they knew everything, that they were the best judges as to what was good for this poor nation, and the results are before our eyes all around us jolting the foundation of the state.
“Attempts by one institution to encroach upon the domains of other state institutions, in violation of clearly defined roles laid down in the Constitution, will only lead to disruption of the democratic system and chaos in society.
“The country cannot afford any such fresh adventurism in some new garb and thus, the ECP must thwart all such attempts to protect its independence and autonomy as granted by the parliament through the Constitution.
“If one institution is to run all other institutions of the state, then all others should be closed down so that claiming to be all knowing and to be the latest breed of people called ‘guardians’ should also assume responsibility and account for the obvious and tragic consequences that will naturally emanate from such adventurism.”
The letter with the subject, “calling it a day”, has been addressed to the chief election commissioner and members of the ECP. Copies of the letter have also been sent to the principal secretary to the prime minister and the secretary of establishment division.
Mr Khan hailed the performance of ECP and said: “Others should take an objective look at their own performance in terms of functions assigned to them by the Constitution as to how much relief they have been able to provide to 180 million people of Pakistan. This sorry state of affairs will continue until institutions keep on interfering in the domains of others.”
The letter also referred to what it called maltreatment regularly meted out to civil servants to satisfy the ego of a few people.
“There is a limit to everything after which the helpless get together to protect themselves against the insults and injustices because those supposed to provide protection to civil servants have abdicated their role.”
Mr Khan said because of uncalled for incidents of interference in the constitutional responsibilities of ECP at behest of some vested interests and frequent use of unjustified and derogatory remarks to belittle the commission, “I feel that least I can do on my part is to quit this job to register my protest against attempts being made to subjugate the commission in order to deprive it of its independence and autonomy granted by the parliament”.
He criticised the objections raised by other institutions over the ECP’s interaction with parliamentary bodies and said: “All over the world election management bodies interact with parliamentary committees to bring about improvement in electoral practices and to benefit from the collective wisdom of the parliament. However, in Pakistan this worldwide practice is not being respected which is a violation of the Constitution.”
Mr Khan said: “Only democratic dispensation based on the principles of separation of powers as envisaged in the Constitution can ensure security, peace, progress and better future for the homeland and the nation which have already suffered a great deal and deserve mercy from all kinds of adventurers.
“The ECP, on its part, must not let such attempts to succeed, hoping other institutions might also follow suit. All things are transitory; one must take a stand on principles and then should be ready to pay the price and sacrifice everything while fighting for a just and great cause.”
The Supreme Court’s January order for the ECP to postpone the Feb 20 by-elections sparked a legal battle between the two constitutional institutions.
On Jan 24, the Supreme Court, in its second clarification issued within 24 hours, explained that it had a duty to ensure that all organs of the state, including constitutional offices and authorities, functioned in accordance with the spirit of the law and the Constitution.
The court had issued the clarification to elucidate its position on the statement by Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Hamid Ali Mirza describing the court’s Jan 19 order as unconstitutional in which the ECP had been directed not to hold by-elections on five National Assembly and one provincial assembly seats on the basis of existing voters’ list.