That’s the least of our problems with coming by-elections
With their long stints in power they exercise complete control over the administrative machinery of Punjab with Police being their private force.
Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is harping on his mandate – which does not exist. In the famous Asghar Khan case the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) has already passed judgment against Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) that ensured his back door entry into the Prime Minister’s (PM) house. It was blatant abuse of state authority and resources. Mian Sahib now talks about the ‘Chor Darwaza’ to power forgetting the fact that he himself had followed the same route.
PML-N is a product of ten manipulated ballots that took place between 1977 and 2013. If the next elections are held without major electoral reforms the crooks will win again. The party does have a vote bank but it has no co-relation with the number of seats they manage to win with the help of angels. With their long stints in power they exercise complete control over the administrative machinery of Punjab with Police being their private force. From the posting of the Principals of the polling station schools down to the ‘Patwari’ all the vote delivery mechanisms are controlled. Personal/mutual benefits are a part of their political equation.
Institutional damage caused by their extended misrule is beyond redemption. Progress is projected through propaganda. While the computerisation of records is highlighted the ground realities remain grim: most record does not exist. Lahore is worst effected by record room infernos. Instead of resurrecting the record the provincial government has decided to introduce computerisation as a panacea of all ills. Even the media has not picked up this PML-N sponsored disaster to take control of public properties through ‘Qabza Groups’ in fact it has become a standard PML-N SOP to avoid accountability. On that note: the burning of Metro Bus record at LDA Plaza and NA-125 election record needs to be investigated.
Unfortunately, in seventy years there has been just one free and fair election in 1970. Both Mujib and Bhutto had real mandates that should have been respected. Ayub Khan started the process of voter control while Zia introduced ballot box manipulation, only Yahya allowed credible electoral exercise. The result was the ablest assembly ever that formulated the unanimous 1973 constitution that has kept the country together. Zia, Musharraf and Mian Sahib – and yes, even Zardari tried to neutralise the democratic gains made in the Bhutto era but all have failed miserably.
PML-N is a product of ten manipulated ballots that took place between 1977 and 2013. If the next elections are held without major electoral reforms the crooks will win again.
Massive electoral reforms are needed for people’s mandate to prevail over Mian Sahib’s façade. Elections Bill 2017 is a joke. Autonomy of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is needed but it is not enough for the conduct of a credible electoral exercise. GHQ launched political outfits like PML-N and MQM have no respect for the ballot their focus is only on the mandate. All kinds of terminologies are used like, Election Day Dynamics, Importance of Polling Agents, Scrutiny of voter lists, Vote count and Announcement of Results, Role of Presiding and Returning Officers etc. the list goes on.
The bottom line is that no one seems interested in the people’s mandate.
Ask a man on the street why he disapproved of Mian Sahib’s government but seemed helpless in the process of getting rid of it. The reasons you’ll be given are interesting. “Badmashi ka Vote” seems over whelming. With the ‘Thana and Patwarkhana’ in their control their electoral victory is ensured in Punjab. At one time ‘Ball Tampering’ was a big menace in cricket and mostly Pakistani bowlers were blamed for it. Once the CCTV cameras were installed the problem was solved. Shahid Afridi – even as Captain – was fined when he was shown using his teeth on the ball. The same approach can be used for “Ballot Tampering”. Technology can ensure the transparency and accountability which has been missing in the most vital national exercise.
To make the process indisputable, India has started the use of EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines). Their use may be difficult in the coming elections but “Biometric Verification” can be done with ease. NADRA has the know how to apply this technology in the next electoral exercise but political parties like PML-N and MQM will not be interested till they are able to break codes to favour them. Mobile service providers, Banks, Passport Offices, NIC centres everyone seems comfortable with the use of this small device used for thumb verification, left hand for males and right for females, it is as simple as that.
Elections Bill 2017 will be crucial for the future of democracy in the country. Members of the bipartisan committee formed for this purpose started working in August 2014, with a mandate to complete work in three months. The bill was signed on July 21, 2017 about three years later, its main focus has been on female participation. Elections will be annulled if less than 10% females vote, it will be mandatory on all political parties to award 5% tickets to the fair sex.
The most vital issues of voters list and ballot tempering have not been addressed. Autonomy of ECP alone cannot ensure a free and fair election. In 1977 the commission under Justice Sajjad Ahmed Jan was relatively autonomous. ‘Ballot tampering’ was carried out by a few powerful individuals with help of the local administration. The PM and the four CM’s were elected un-opposed. Jan Muhammad Abbasi a Jamaat candidate against Bhutto in Larkhana filed a ‘Hebbes Corpus’ petition claiming that he was abducted to stop him from filling his nomination papers. The election tribunals moved fast, quite a few candidates were disqualified. Then there was a bizarre gas lake incident in Peshawar in which the Chief Election Commissioner was incapacitated.
The rest, as they say, is history
Yousaf Raza Gillani – the Ex-PM – had rightly expressed his fears of another manipulated electoral exercise. With ten fixed elections in a row since 1977, this is a fair assumption. Mian Sahib’s tampered mandate will not be acceptable to the young voters of the country and may trigger a very serious crisis. This technology savvy generation will demand replays and reviews by neutral umpires as is being done in cricket. It is indeed interesting that the Kaptaan was responsible for neutral umpiring in cricket, now he is leading the charge for the same in the realm of national elections. Hopefully like the demise of ball tampering in cricket, ballot tampering will also come to end sparing the comrades the street battles for which they are ready and prepared. Tampered mandate will not be acceptable. Replays will reveal the truth. By-elections in NA-120 constituency of Lahore will be a test case.