The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) held consultations with political parties on Wednesday for their feedback on the draft code of conduct for the elections. The ECP also assured them that free and fair elections will take place. While it is good that the ECP is finally moving on with its work towards ensuring that elections take place, it is also a bit worrying that the electoral body has still not given any final date for the upcoming general elections. Due to this, there is an uncertainty that is leading to more political chaos, not less. While the PML-N seems ‘confident’ – at least in public – that elections will take place next year in January or February, some political observers say that there is no guarantee until the ECP gives a final date. While PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif is all set to return to the country on October 21, ending almost four years of his ‘medical leave’, PDM ally Maulana Fazlur Rehman is not very happy with the PML-N and the PPP because the two parties have asked for immediate elections. Maulana met Shehbaz Sharif and asked for his support in ensuring that elections don’t take place in January due to ‘intense’ weather in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Shehbaz will reportedly consult with his party leadership and had not given any commitments to Maulana. Political observers say that the JUI-F does not want polls to take place because of its increasing unpopularity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Maybe Maulana should focus more on his election campaign rather than campaigning for the elections to be postponed even more than they have already been.
On the other hand, a day after the ECP’s assurance, PTI Chairman Imran Khan gave a message to his supporters from jail through his family that “whatever day the election is held, people of Pakistan will come out in huge numbers to vote for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and defeat all these parties combined”. Imran’s confidence in his popularity is still strong it seems, even though he is incarcerated and many observers believe that he will not be out anytime soon. Apart from the ECP’s assurance, Imran’s message, another important development is President Arif Alvi’s meeting with former federal minister Muhammad Ali Durrani at the President House – the third one in one month. Alvi called for an end to bitterness so that it gives way to “cooperation and forgiveness”. He also said that democracy becomes meaningless if people are not able to elect leaders of their choice. Observers say that the president’s choice of words is quite interesting. Some think that the president is trying his hand at another attempt of reconciliation between his party leader Imran Khan and the powers that be after Alvi’s backdoor negotiations for reconciliation failed. Others, however, believe that this is a face-saving attempt by the president after Imran Khan’s message through his sister that he was disappointed with Alvi for not doing his constitutional duty by announcing an election date. They say that Alvi is only making such statements to placate his party. Whatever the reason behind Alvi’s statement, the message is good and should be heeded. We have seen how political acrimony between political parties has landed this country into a hot mess. Granted that it was Imran Khan’s stubbornness that he did not agree on an election date with the PDM but even then it is important now that he is in jail that all political parties make sure that the next elections take place without any more controversy. Pakistan needs a stable government instead of an unelected ‘caretaker’ government making huge decisions like privatization, deportation of refugees and migrants, and much else.