ISLAMABAD: Dispelling the impression of large-scale rigging in the 2013 elections, former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim has said that the political leadership of the country should not let democracy derailed and made it clear that there was no pressure from former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) with regard to the elections 2013.
Asking Fakhru Bhai to ‘break his silence’ was never easy, particularly in a situation when a leading opposition party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has termed the election 2013 most fraudulent, demanding resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and fresh elections under the new Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
While most of the conversation remained ‘off the record,’ he allowed to use some of it ‘on record,’ particularly when asked about his ‘regrets’ during his term, and ‘proposals’ to improve the electoral process.
His three regrets include (1) Army should have been given a more supportive role, (2) Elections should have been held in phases, and (3) Serving judges should have been appointed as Chairman Election Tribunal making it necessary for them to give the verdicts within 120 days. Fakhru Bhai advised the political leadership to show patience and not to let democracy ‘derailed.’
For the new ECP and electoral reforms, he suggested (1) No serving bureaucrat should be in the ECP (2) Voting should be made compulsory (3) ECP members should not be from the judiciary but should have an experience of dealing with administration with good reputation (4) Elections should be held in phases like in India, considering the resources and manpower (5) ECP’s bureaucratic structure should also be revamped. Fakhruddin G Ebrahim had told the then leader of the opposition Ch Nisar Ali Khan, who approached him to accept the job that he would quit as the CEC after the elections despite having a five-year term in the office.
A retired judge, who already draws Rs600,000 as pension could have been getting an additional Rs600,000 as the CEC, till the expiry of his term, meaning Rs1,200,000 a month. But, Fakhru Bhai stepped down as per his commitment.
Since the resignation of Fakhru Bhai, the government and the opposition have been unable to agree on a single candidate for the Chief Election Commissioner. Within a year, they were supposed to agree on four other ECP members as the incumbent ECP members’ tenure would expire in a year.