ISLAMABAD: Key Western countries have conveyed to Pakistan that any delay in the parliamentary elections beyond a certain timeframe would trigger serious consequences for the country, including the potential downgrading of ties.
Diplomatic sources told The Express Tribune on Sunday that the United States and the European Union had been closely following the developments in Pakistan with regard to the elections, these countries had always advocated democracy.
The US and the EU, according to the sources, believed that elections were the essence of any progressive democratic society. But there were concerns in the Western capitals that elections might not take place in Pakistan and the current caretaker set-up might stick around beyond it mandated time.
Elections after the dissolution of the assemblies would have to take place within 90 days as per the Constitution. However, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) during the fag end of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government approved the new census results.
In view of the CCI’s move, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) then announced the fresh delimitation exercise in accordance with the digital census, 2023, insisting that it was bound by the law to redraw the constituencies before the next elections.
The exercise will take up to four months and after that elections can take place. The diplomatic sources said that a delay of a couple of months because of delimitation and certain technicalities could be tolerated.
However, if elections are delayed beyond February next year that might invoke serious consequences for the country, a source said. “Frankly, if elections are delayed beyond February, it will be extremely difficult for us to maintain the same level of bilateral engagement with Pakistan as we are doing now.”
It is believed that in case of delay in elections, Western countries, which particularly take democracy very seriously, might revisit their cooperation with Pakistan. This could negatively impact Pakistan’s engagement with the US-led financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Not only the Western countries wanted on-time elections but they also want a level playing field for all the political parties. “This is something we will be keeping a close eye on,” said another diplomatic source, referring to the media restriction and crackdown against certain political parties.
Last week, US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome met with Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja and reiterated the need for free, fair and transparent elections as per the Pakistani Constitution.
A statement issued by the US Embassy had said the ambassador reiterated that choosing Pakistan’s future leaders was for the Pakistani people to decide and stressed that the US remained committed to broaden and deepen the bilateral relationship with whomever the Pakistani people choose.
Following his meeting with the CEC, the US envoy also met Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar and conveyed the same message.
The ECP recently clarified that it has no plans to delay elections once the delimitation process is complete. The clarification comes after reports that after delimitation the ECP will update electoral rolls based on the new delimitation, further delaying the polls.
However, the polls supervisor made it clear that the process of updating electoral rolls and delimitation was going on side by side and hence there would be no further delay in the elections.
Source : Tribune