Timely elections

Editorial Board
Thursday, Jun 08, 2023

The Supreme Court has appreciated the efforts of political parties in reaching a consensus on holding elections for the national and provincial assemblies on the same date and also said that political issues are best resolved through dialogue and a consensus among the political stakeholders. After a series of dialogue between the PDM and PTI, both sides had submitted their reports. The PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique informed the court that if dialogue continues, a consensus on a specific date can be achieved. However, the PTI does not agree – Shah Mahmood Qureshi saying they are not satisfied with the progress made in the dialogue. The SC has identified what many have been pointing out for almost a year: only a dialogue between all political forces can lead to a resolution of issues between the political parties and no other force or institution can ‘force’ political parties into resolving their disputes unless there is a comprehensive dialogue between these sides. The PDM seems confident of a resolution, which is a positive sign because it also shows that the government is serious about holding elections this year, either in October or November. Before the May 9 riots, the dialogue between PTI and PDM had according to government representatives agreed on an election date; they say that PTI Chairman Imran Khan had reportedly not agreed to the date. However, now that the PDM has once again shown some willingness for another dialogue, there is hope that this issue will be resolved once and for all.

If an election date is agreed to – and may we say here that it is incumbent that the government recognizes just how important it is to hold elections on time; already the 90-day election issue in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a glaring taint on a government that claims to be democratic – there are other important questions that need to be addressed and which are beyond political differences. At a time when inflation is at an all-time high and poverty has risen beyond the expectations of the government, the cost of elections will be quite huge. That may be so but this is something the country must bear because elections are the only way forward to get out of both the political mess and the economic meltdown. These elections should also be about conflict resolution rather than lead to even more conflict.

First off, the government and other political forces must resolve the issue of the census, without which there will be far too many disputes as we have already seen, especially in urban areas of Sindh. While the 18th Amendment charted a way forward for provincial resources and the NFC Award, provinces are facing issues due to the economic crunch. This must be resolved amicably. Many are asking whether the elections will see another PDM-type government now that the PTI is in disarray and many new groups have already emerged – democrats, haqiqi, JKT, etc – while other groups are said to be in the pipeline. Electoral experts and analysts say there is a chance of another coalition government in the centre and it could well be of the parties already part of the PDM government, with some new groups joining them. Some observers see the PPP getting most seats in the centre – with Sindh almost certainly going to the PPP, which is also set to bag seats in Balochistan and southern Punjab. However, once again, Punjab elections will be most interesting with so many splinter groups of the PTI – that too though depends on the future of Imran Khan and his cases. Some of these questions will be answered closer to the elections but one thing is clear: without elections, there can be no stability. Things need to settle down now so that there is stability in the aftermath of a turbulent year.