Elections being the foundation of democracy; the Election Commission definitely sounds a body responsible to provide a solid base to build the whole democratic system upon. But what if the foundation itself has inclinations? The build-up will start tilting too.
During the last general elections all the team looked like a kitchen group at the Commission’s head office all belonging to KPK headed by Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan and included Additional Secretary, Director General (Admn), Additional Director General Public Relations, Director Public Relations, Deputy Director Public Relations). This kitchen group was so PR oriented that for the Grade 19 post of Director PR, it found a Grade 17 English lecturer as a perfect fit whereas the required experience as published in the advertisement was to be in PR. Although the Chief Election Commissioner and members no doubt are very much professional and competent the appointment of the Secretary Election Commission has been challenged already in Islamabad High Court. (Dawn Oct 8)
Supreme Court’s observation in various cases used to be not to extend the services of any officer after retirement on superannuation but the ECP is still giving extension to many officers including Secretary and Provincial Election Commissioners. Out of 180 million, isn’t there anyone eligible as well as capable to be appointed as secretary election commission other than the person whose eligibility is legally challenged? In presence of the professional services group like OMG, DMG etc. what makes it difficult to appoint efficient officials. In my view this is contempt of 180 million people and professional services group and it is also against the Supreme Court’s observation in many such cases.
It is further surprising to hear that election commission of Pakistan reappointed/extended many officers on their posts including the Secretary not only once but in most of the cases, for more than two times. Election commission has taken unduly lenient view in some cases for example; election commission received a written complaint of one of its officers claiming that the Additional Secretary at that time threatened him of consequences of not allotting his desired election symbol to a certain party. The same (now ex) additional secretary also threatened another senior officer who was also inquiry officer in a case against him. He threatened a TV channel reporter in a press briefing in the presence of caretaker interior minister too. Apart from the reservation that what barred election commission to take immediate and serious action against the said secretary and waited for his retirement, the more is the question that to what extent this secretary would have influenced the electoral system and processes during the General Elections 2013?
There also rise some more questions over the authority of the Election Commission as an independent body when Secretary EC serves his resignation which once accepted and endorsed by the Commission is revoked after three months by the prime minister as unaccepted and the secretary is reinstated. How come a resignation of the Commission’s secretary goes to PM’s office and how come and up to what extent the Prime Minister has its authority of influencing independent Commission’s internal affairs?
We have a suggestion that if it is necessary or important to appoint a retired officer or any person from private sector the EC may hire the services of such a person as consultant/advisor without affecting the seniority/promotion of the regular officers serving in the Commission. These are some of the glimpses of overall scenario inside the Election Commission itself. How transparent and trustworthy elections can be expected when there are more than one example of transparent irregularities.
Safeer Hussain Shah