The election news, of avid interest to the reader these days, is baffling, to say the least; the different stakeholders, except for the voters, seem to be at times working at cross-purposes. With the situation remaining so confused and murky and the time left for the scheduled polling date so short, there seems to be some effort to market a delay in the polls as inevitable. Although by now, the various controversial issues should have been settled and the election machinery fully engaged in the nitty-gritty of actual balloting, there is no complication which will justify even a days delay in the elections. Against this background, the assurance given by caretaker Information Minister Arif Nizami that no proposal to put off the elections was under consideration is, indeed, welcome. He made this statement, while speaking to TheNation, Nawa-i-Waqt and Waqt TV News, after he had made a courtesy call on group Editor-in-Chief Majid Nizami at his office on Monday. He also claimed that since the caretakers took charge of office, there has been an improvement in the security situation of the country. It was their earnest wish that the polling took place not only on time, but also it should be free, fair and transparent. Mr Nizami urged all involved in the exercise, including the media, to abide by the code set by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). However, he felt, referring to the cases of fake degree holders, that with too harsh a scrutiny that kept main players out of the game, the outcome would not remain just. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court wants ‘ruthless’ scrutiny and is supported by the feelings of a large segment of the electorate. On Tuesday, Rehman Gul (PML-N) of Sargodha was sent to jail following several others who were held accountable for this very charge.

In the meantime, politicians are shifting their loyalties to other parties, with most joining the PML-N generally believed to be the front-runner. Perhaps, the most important news is the ECP’s admission that it would not be possible for it to provide Pakistani expatriates with the facility to cast their vote. That is despite the Supreme Court’s repeated and emphatic orders that they have the right to vote and that right must not be denied. The ECP, though, has come up with the argument, rather difficult to question, that it did not possess a system of electronic voting that could assure foolproof security and the existing system could spell ruin to the entire electoral process. As the courts are hearing petitions against rejection of nomination papers of some hopefuls, their candidature is not yet certain. The reshuffling of bureaucracy supposed to play a key role in the election ought to have been done as soon as the caretakers took over, but the exercise continues, with Punjab having transferred the Additional Chief Secretary and 54 high police officers on Monday. BNP leader Akhtar Mengal has again, at a meeting with JI leader Munawwar Hassan, called for creating a climate conducive to holding elections in Balochistan. The EU would not send its observer team to Fata and Balochistan and for obvious reasons. There is dire need to sort things out and make sure that the polling takes place on time.