How elections are stolen - Pakistan Today

How elections are stolen

A weak election commission can never execute free and fair elections

Those who cast ballots change nothing

Those who count them change everything

The ‘Bolshevik or Soviet Revolution’ is being discussed after completing its century (1917 – 2017). Marshal Stalin’s approach of stealing ballots was perhaps the biggest disservice to the movement. For long term sustainability of a country or organization people’s participation is a requirement otherwise it becomes a farce and everything collapses.

There is famous verse in Urdu Poetry that says:

“مجھے کیا بُرا تھا مرنا اگر ایک بار ھوتا”

(Dying only once was not that bad)

Dying again and again is like repeated executions or leaving the body hanging on the gallows. As a nation our mandate has been repeatedly stolen through ten farce elections and two fake national referendums between 1977 to 2013. In 70 years there has been only one free and fair election in 1970. We have been robbed ten times of our most valuable asset called ‘leadership’.

On reading the statement of the interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal in which he claimed that the parliament was a very credible institution, I did not know whether to laugh or to cry. My friend Dr. Kamal Monnoo the economist has claimed in his article ‘Was Plato thinking today’s Pakistan’ that on the net currency conversion basis the average wage level of a Pakistani parliamentarian and government servant is the highest in South Asia and significantly higher than our friend China, the emerging superpower of the world.

It does not end here. Pakistan also has the world’s richest Generals, Scientists and even Judges while the nation continues to languish. There seems to be an unholy alliance against the masses, people’s verdict is repeatedly manipulated to derail change and strengthen status-quo. This has led to widespread frustration amongst the youth who see no light at the end of the tunnel.

In hte NA-125 constituency of Lahore, Khawaja Saad Rafiq stole the election back in 2013. There was a spontaneous dharna at Lalik Chowk, DHA, Lahore by the first-time voters. Pakistan is a young nation where over 50% of the population is consists of the youth whose future is in a phase of change rather than status-quo. A vast majority of them voted for PTI, yet PML-N won. The election tribunal de-seated Saad Rafiq who then got a stay from the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP). Only a few months remain in his term of office yet there seems to be no urgency in containing and then correcting this blatant electoral manipulation.

The electoral contest in NA-122 should have been an eye opener as it was held in the home ground of Sharifs from where they emerged in 1985. Gawalmandi of Lahore is an old neighbourhood. Next to the ‘Baans Bazar’ and not too far from Islamia College Railway Road, the area is thickly populated.

Khawaja Saad Rafique illegally entered the women’s voting booth at one of the polling stations of NA-125 on election day in 2013

There have been mass recruitments from the area in all government departments from Police to Patwari – no government function has been spared. Loyalty to the House of Sharif’s ensures rapid promotion and unlimited favours. The 56 public sector corporations established by the Punjab Government are infested with selected favorites. The Lahore High Court (LHC) is currently hearing cases of misappropriation of funds reported around Rs 80 billion, with the ‘Saaf Paani’ Company being the biggest disaster of them all.

Several public-sector companies were set up by the truly elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) in the seventies to improve governance. Technocrats were appointed from the private sector to head these corporations. Syed Babar Ali headed the National Fertilizer Corporation (NFC), Dr. Bilgrami was the MD of Resource Development Corporation to name a few. Today the scenario is totally different. LHC should seek a list of all the CEO’s of these public sector enterprises together with their qualifications and salaries. Loyal bureaucrats have been posted at exorbitant salaries thereby defeating the basic purpose of forming these entities while drawing millions in salaries with very little output. It has been reported that a Grade 20 officer who was DG LDA is drawing a monthly salary in excess of Rs 2 million in glaring violation of rules.

In a network of loyalists paid through the public exchequer the evil empire is untouchable. Ballot boxes can be stuffed, voters list manipulated, families scattered and harassed, development projects launched/stopped, opposition punished, Police unleashed, property ownership disputed through ‘Patwaris’, tax notices served; there is an apparatus of coercion that can violently tame defiance of the citizen.No country can survive without functional institutions each operating in its own orbit under a constitutional framework. Luckily in our struggle for democracy we were able to formulate a unanimous constitution in 1973 that has ensured survival of the federation despite several onslaughts. But the Election Commission has not succeeded in holding a credible ballot since 1977 which is why the entire electoral process needs a major overhaul together with organizational restructuring. Judges of the Superior judiciary are poor managers, the same mismanagement has been carried over to the commission. A national election calls for major administrative acumen that has not been seen. Same irregularities are repeatedly reported yet there is no correction only blames. عوام کا فیصلہ””  (People’s verdict) will only be possible if the Mafia Networks of ‘Siasis’ and  ‘Sarkaris’ are shattered. Casting not counting of ballots by unscrupulous elements should be decisive for democracy to survive and flourish. In the words of ZAB, “Elections rock a nation”; which should be for the nourishment of a masses not their exploitation and demise as has been the case since 1977 with ten farce elections and two fake referendums.

The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation