SC’s Welcome Move | Editorial

A JOLT to the electoral system and general election schedule has prompted a necessary and sensible reaction by the ECP, and the Supreme Court has in turn acted commendably to suspend the verdict of a single judge of the Lahore High Court that had threatened to derail at least the nomination phase of the poll schedule.
As has become apparent since the Lahore High Court judgement suddenly rocked the political landscape, there are plausible arguments for the nomination forms as amended by parliament passing legal and constitutional muster.
While there can be legitimate disagreements in constitutional and legal interpretations by various members of the superior judiciary, and the judiciary must never shirk from fulfilling its constitutional duties, what is troubling about the high court’s intervention is that it disregarded the national disruption it would cause.
Surely, in an era of intense judicial activism, at least the possibility of forming a larger bench should have been considered for a step as drastic as directing the ECP to revise nomination forms that parliament had approved.
Or perhaps some other mechanism, such as inviting further opinion of legal experts or examining the practical effects of ordering a change to the forms on the eve of the opening of the short nomination phase, should have been considered.
With the approach of a historic general election, all state institutions and the political class too must be mindful of the need to promote the democratic project and showcase it as the only legitimate, constitutional form of government this country can have.
The insistent speculation that anti-democratic forces may seek to delay or cancel the general election is a political reality in the country. But the leaderships of all state institutions have publicly committed to ensuring an on-time election and the actions of those institutions should reflect those commitment.
Chief Justice Saqib Nisar has done the right thing in suspending the order and it is hoped that the Supreme Court’s final decision will reflect the iron-clad commitment to democracy that he has pledged the superior judiciary will uphold.
If democracy is to prevail and elections are to be held on time, the political class must also reconsider its approach. The PTI’s endorsement of the Lahore High Court order is an example of poor politics and rank opportunism.
The PTI distanced itself from the electoral reforms package legislated by parliament after the PML-N inserted a clause allowing Nawaz Sharif to be elected president of the party, but since the electoral reforms were approved, the PTI made no known public attempt to address the issue of changed nomination forms. Good faith and more principled politics are needed if democracy is to prevail.
Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2018

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