Dreams of a free and fair election

There is a dire need of the forceful and immediate implementation of laws related to the elections. Recounting process must be initiated as per the law soon after the application received by the aggrieved party to ensure its satisfaction.

There are still too many loopholes in the system.

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It is highly unfortunate that after 73 years of independence, elections in Pakistan cannot be held yet which are perceived to be free and fair. The election of NA -249 in Karachi where voter turnout was 20 percent; half of the 2018 general election, and the votes of all parties were reduced. Whereas, PPP managed to get more than double the votes it got in 2018 general election, defeating Miftah Ismail of the PML(N). All defeated parties have alleged rigging in this election. Public perception and political talk shows also point towards a strong perception of election rigging.

It took 11 hours to compile the result whereas total votes cast were 72,740 in 276 polling stations. At this speed one vote was counted at a speed of two and half minutes per polling station. Moreover, there is absolutely no explanation why Form 45 could not be finalized within a couple of hours when voter turnout was so low. Why it took 11 hours for some presiding officer to finalize the result? On the other side, some completed their task within a couple of hours?

This election has just taken place a few weeks after the Daska By-Election for NA-75 which was nullified due to rigging and re-election was announced with a result much different from the first polling in the by-election. The PML(N) was defeated first and won the election later on. The Election Commission has also held accountable the administration which held the first round of Daska By-Election by suspending them.

Similarly, in the 2018 general elections, the result transmission system (RTS) system which was introduced for the first time then collapsed.  In the RTS system, presiding officers, before sending the original documents, had to take a picture of the form 45 and send it to the returning officers (ROs) and ECP in real time.

Essentially, the institutions need to develop the trust among the masses. The trust deficit must be eliminated to ensure the transparent process of elections. This can be possible if all the stakeholders can get access to every information regarding elections. Complete exclusion of factors that pressurize concerned officers and authorities, can also smoothen the election process.

Where this system ensures transparency and efficiency it has many fissures. In the 2018 general elections, the failure of RTS had presumably changed many results. It showed that it might be hacked or controlled forcibly. Some investigations unveiled that the RTS never failed, but had been stopped forcibly. The recent by-elections are being perceived with the same skepticism that how can it take 11 hours to send pictures of the forms? The attitude of the returning officers was such that they had become partisans in this election. They were not ready to listen to anyone; they were not ready to give any data despite the fact that this is the constitutional right of every candidate.

It is enough to say that there is something which smells fishy. And it is evident as ECP stayed the consolidation of NA-249 election’s result and accepted the application of Miftah Ismail, which seeks the recounting of votes, for hearing. If a single by-election becomes too controversial, what can we expect from general elections in the whole country ?

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This kind of impediment in transparency and autonomy of ECP can never let the nation grow. The incompetence of government has reached the point where they cannot hold a by-election in a transparent way; the way where no one has any sort of reservations; the way where one can accept his or her defeat, thinking that defeat in a transparent election is not defeat but the victory of the nation. As a nation, we are standing at a dangerous edge. Robert Browning said it as “Our interest’s on the dangerous edge of things. The honest thief, the tender murderer, the superstitious atheist.

This establishes that the current election system has failed to deliver free and fair elections.  Political parties and political candidates are vulnerable to election fraud at the will of the caretaker government in general elections, or the establishment which is working behind the scenes. An election system has to be established which covers the gaps in the current system. It is the duty of the Government and Opposition to work together to come forward with a solution which is agreed upon by all. Otherwise this cycle has continued since the last 73 years and will still continue. The victims are the voters who are losing faith in the system.

Essentially, the institutions need to develop the trust among the masses. The trust deficit must be eliminated to ensure the transparent process of elections. This can be possible if all the stakeholders can get access to every information regarding elections. Complete exclusion of factors that pressurize concerned officers and authorities, can also smoothen the election process. There is a dire need of the forceful and immediate implementation of laws related to the elections. Recounting process must be initiated as per the law soon after the application received by the aggrieved party to ensure its satisfaction.

Ihsan Afzal Khan
The writer is a freelance columnist

1 COMMENT

  1. It doesn’t matter how free or fair an election is when the ideas and system being applied still results in zulm. If we follow a process of building a house starting with the roof then no matter how many times we change the project manager the process will still be incorrect. If we expect insaan to legislate for us from their own limited mind then it will always lead to failure and corruption no matter how clean the selection process can become. Democracy has always shown itself to be a failure and it is not the fault of the people that democracy fails, making the law of Allah subservient to the law of insaan(democracy) will always lead to failure and goes against the kalimah of La ilaha illAllah. There is no ilah other than Allah.

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