THE needle has barely moved. According to news reports, the Election Commission has sought the completion of the preliminary delimitation of constituencies by the end of this month Sept 26, to be precise so that the exercise can be completed sooner than originally anticipated. The process was initially scheduled to be completed by Oct 7, as announced by the ECP, following the notification of the digital census in August. But while it would appear on paper that the ECP is making an effort to expedite the elections exercise, the revision of the delimitation timeline still does not mean elections will be held according to the constitutional schedule. In fact, even under the revised schedule, elections are unlikely to be held any time before the second half of January unless, of course, some power intervenes and binds the ECP to the non-negotiable condition set by the Constitution elections within 90 days.
Last week, the Supreme Court returned a petition filed by the PTI seeking an order to force the ECP to adhere to the constitutional scheme, with the objection that it had not specified which question of public importance was being raised that pertained to fundamental rights. The apex court, therefore, did not find sufficient grounds to invoke jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, recommending that the matter be taken up before an `appropriate forum` instead. It may be recalled that the president, too, recently asked the ECP to seek guidance from the superior judiciary on when elections ought to be held after abdicating his own constitutional authority to set a date for a general election for the National Assembly, which was dissolved by his hand. It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court will take up the matter after the objections it has raised on the PTI`s petition. In contrast to his predecessors, the new chief justice seems to hold a comparatively restrictive view regarding the apex court`s jurisdiction under Article 184(3).
It is deeply regrettable that the ECP remains on course to committing another major violation of the Constitution without any check. The question of whether or not elections can exceed the 90-day deadline for a prematurely dissolved assembly has been adjudicated this year by both the Lahore High Court and the Supreme Court. It defies understanding how the country`s administrative system can continue to operate in complete denial of their judgements and expect to once again get away with committing a grave violation of the country`s law. The entire edifice of this country`s political system rests on its people`s right to choose their representatives to govern its matters. How long will this right be held hostage to the whims of those who wish, instead, to impose their own will on 240m souls?