It has perhaps been the deadliest election campaign in Pakistan’s history. Despite the TTP’s anti-ANP campaign of 2013, in terms of sheer body count, these polls top the list.
However, at three candidates, the 2018 polls don’t top the list in terms of the number of candidates killed. That dubious distinction still belongs to the aforementioned ‘13 polls.
One does not want to tempt fate, however. Polling day itself could see some terrible violence as well, and the authorities need to be well prepared for any untoward event.
Electioneering, however, has been brought to an end. As per ECP rules, there shall be no election activity from now till the community mobilisation on the day of the election. A much-needed “cooling off” period for the parties to take stock of their respective situations so they can really sink their teeth into their polling day plans.
The PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto rounded things up in Northern Sindh; PTI chief Imran Khan in Lahore, and the League chief in South Punjab – specifically, Dera Ghazi Khan, where he is also contesting a seat.
Interesting aside: on Monday, the Islamabad High Court dismissed an old appeal of Imran Khan’s against the ECP, which had initiated proceedings against him when he had campaigned in the by-polls at Lodhran, Lahore and Sahiwal. The Commission had expressly stated that party heads and lawmakers could not visit constituencies after by-polls schedule are announced. Many ignored this and went; the ECP threw the book at all of them and all apologised – except Imran Khan.
As the ECP’s lawyer in the IHC said: “With the exception of the PTI chief, all the politicians had tendered unconditional apologies, which were accepted by the ECP.”
He further added that “Khan not only violated the code of conduct but was also reluctant to respond to the notice.”
Meanwhile, the single most important political player in the country isn’t keeping too well in jail. Rumours abound about his health and it would do the caretaker administration good to ensure he is taken care of. These polls are already being called the “dirtiest” in the country’s history; letting the health of the leader of what could be the single largest party slide into a precarious situation would seal the deal as far as perceptions go, both within the country and without. Apart, of course, from it being the right thing to do. The Prisons Act, 1894, has prescribed a code of conduct and all internees have the right to medical attention.
Meanwhile, our self-described “downtown man” Sheikh Rasheed doesn’t seem satisfied with being given a virtual cakewalk in his ‘Pindi constituency after the disqualification of rival Hanif Abbasi. Don’t delay the polls in this constituency – as the ECP did, after Abbasi’s disqualification. Short of a candidate dying (and Abbasi didn’t, much to Sheikh Rasheed’s chagrin) it is unconstitutional to delay polls.
“I have spent too much money on the elections. I am a Sheikh and I can’t even sleep at night now,” he quipped.