The recent decision by Sikandar Sultan Raja, the chief election commissioner of Pakistan, to postpone elections beyond the legal deadline has raised concerns about the integrity of the electoral process. Many had hoped that Raja would remain committed to upholding democratic values and the Constitution, but his decision to cave to pressure from the security establishment and government has been widely seen as a betrayal of the people.
The excuse given for the delay – that Pakistan is not safe enough to hold an electoral exercise – was seen as flimsy, and it is clear that the state has not provided the ECP with the support and security it needs to hold free and fair elections. The question now is when Pakistan will be “safe enough” for democracy to prevail, and who will make that call. The fact that decision-making regarding the electoral process is now officially dependent on the whims of the security establishment is a worrying development for the future of Pakistani democracy.
If the ECP does not reverse its decision, the precedents being set are going to damage Pakistani democracy, perhaps irrevocably so. The PDM government’s present behavior suggests that it would have few qualms about intervening in such a scenario. These questions should give any democratically inclined mind pause about the path this country is being forced onto.
Overall, the current situation in Pakistan raises serious concerns about the state of democracy in the country. The postponement of elections beyond the legal deadline, and the apparent lack of support from the state for the electoral process, suggest that democratic values are under threat. It is up to those who believe in democracy to speak out against these developments and demand that the electoral process be protected and upheld