The ECP might register the people, but who will get them to the booth?
Taking a cue from Naeem Sadiq’s informative column on the subject, this is about the elections, now around the corner.
The Election Commission of Pakistan has an impressive website, where Jinnah, addressing Pakistan’s civil servants, says, “Prime ministers come and go…..but you stay on, and there is a great responsibility on your shoulders.” Ironic, how the first half of this statement applies to his country today. As for the second half...
The Election Commission’s website is useful. Just SMS your CNIC to 8300, and almost before your finger leaves the send button you have a response telling you if you’re registered, and from where. However, if you’ve moved or died, you need to fill out a form to let them know. This means that in this illiterate country, in spite of its affinity for cell phones, we’re in trouble right away.
People avoid forms like the plague, which you’ll understand if you’re ever tackled the process. Maybe this is why, as Naeem Sadiq pointed out, millions without CNICs are not on the electoral roll, while millions who’ve died since 2008 still live, and as many more have moved. The Chief Election Commissioner said that the Commission’s work ‘is not easy; it is complicated, challenging and demanding’. Given the way the country functions generally, he is very right.
Only at our local bakery, one person gets my biscuits together, another the bread. A third fishes out the milk while a fourth produces the eggs. There is obviously little coordination because when I check later, something is often missing. The manager wonders why I complain, given that I have been served by four whole persons every time. Really, I’d be happy with half a man or his grandmother, so long as I get what I paid for.
The ECP has mobilized a huge force which has been busy collecting data door to door, compiling it into lists, as is done. It needs organization, however, which is not a national strong point, and a degree of adaptation to make the process work according to local conditions.
Let’s take my lady, the one who reigns supreme in the kitchen, and that’s not me, praise the Lord.
At sixty, Ashi has adult, educated children, but Ashi herself cannot tell the time, nor can she use the phone. So she will not be accessing the voter lists via the telephone, and must check them physically. Someone will have to accompany her, because like so many Pakistanis, she cannot read; maybe her sister, the one who gets an income from the Benazir Income Support Program, and knows who she wants to vote in, if her monthly check is to continue.
The ECP website says that voters can check their particulars by visiting their respective District Election Commissioner’s office, where the final electoral roll is available, and that the addresses and contact information of the DEC’s offices across the four provinces can be found on the Election Commissions website. Uh oh.
Some voters may have checked the draft version of the electoral roll that was on display for 21 days at Display Centers across the country. Locations of these centers was widely publicized via newsprint and the electronic media and the public was invited to verify their information and file claims for addition, deletions or correction of details. And here it comes: Form A is for additions, Form B for deletions, and Form C for corrections. It’s all on the website.
When Ashi watches television it is only the weepiest, soppiest ‘droma’ dripping with dreadful daughters-in-law and martyred mothers-in-law. She pounds the episode of the day into the dough, and stirs it into the chicken, muttering imprecations against the bahu all the while. Her children could check for her, only they find it hilarious that ‘Amma’ should vote.
If all turns out well, and it comes time to vote, Ashi’s employers are happy to give her the day off to cast her vote. Presuming she is registered there…her village is only a couple of hours away, but queues are LONG.
Unfortunately, a proximity to home is not the case for many people, who may work here, but may be registered somewhere up north. Few employers are likely to give a couple of weeks off so that their employees can go vote for some berk who comes into office and sits there twiddling his thumbs. But I digress.
Most of this country is an Ashi, in some form or the other. Nevertheless, let’s hope all those forms and all those people going door to door collecting our particulars can deliver one honest vote per one live person…for some berk out there who sits there twiddling his thumbs.
What do you suppose?
The writer is a freelance columnist. Read more by her at http://rabia-ahmed.blogspot.com/