The government announced on Sunday that it would introduce the 20th amendment to the constitution, in a bid to pre-empt a likely Supreme Court decision to disqualify 26 lawmakers for having been elected through by-elections that were held without a fully constituted Election Commission of Pakistan.
The move is likely to trigger fresh concerns about the priorities of the government at a time when the country is facing severe security and economic challenges. The Pakistan Peoples Party-led coalition is bleeding political capital even as the opposition Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz is actively campaigning against what it describes as the government’s failures.
The PML-N seems to be in no mood to strike a deal with the PPP, and passing a constitutional amendment would be difficult without support from across the political spectrum, since amending the fundamental law requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament.
The government’s decision was triggered by a challenge to the legality of 26 by-elections for national and provincial legislatures that have taken place since the 18th Amendment was signed by President Asif Ali Zardari into law on April 19, 2010. A constitutional petition filed by Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan challenged the legality of those elections on grounds that the electoral lists were flawed. During the course of the proceedings, the Supreme Court was told that four of the five positions on the election commission were empty. The Supreme Court has not yet decided on the case, but requested a list of the legislators whose elections had been called into question.