Casualties of a Disastrous, Fraudulent Local Bodies' Poll
September 4: The three serious casualties of the just concluded
local polls are the Election Commission, citizens' trust in the
State and General Musharraf's agenda of Enlightened Moderation.
each election of sorts has dented the credibility of the Election
Commission. The 2005 polls are no exception. Remember how the
Election Commission was diminished when the Chief Election Commissioner
declared in December 1984 to an unbelieving nation that an unprecedented
63 per cent voters had voted "yes" in General Zia's
the mortal blow dealt to the Commission when soon after another
referendum in April 2002, the CEC Justice Irshad Hasan Khan appeared
on national television and reciting the kalima announced
to a shocked people that General Musharraf had won hands down
in a transparent and fair vote in the referendum.
the very poignant commentary on the Election Commission made at
the time by Dr. Sher Afgan Niazi who now sits in the Cabinet as
a minister and is seen as the constitutional wizard of the ruling
in a national Urdu daily he had said: "I have not the least
hesitation in asserting that the Chief Election Commissioner late
Justice Nusrat blackened his face and also that of the entire
nation in Zia's 1984 referendum."
present CEC (Justice Irshad Hasan Khan)," he continued with
reference to the Musharraf referendum "has not only blackened
his face but also sold his conscience. This is his (Justice Irshad's)
second assault on the nation. Previously as Chief Justice he not
only upheld usurpation of power by General Musharraf but also
gave him powers to amend the Constitution -- a power not even
available to the Supreme Court itself."
60 people were killed and over 800 injured, some seriously, in
the two phased polls. When the EC declared that the killings were
not election related and were the result of personal rivalries,
it dumb-founded the people.
State functionaries, including
chief ministers and ministers, went around announcing development
schemes to influence voters. The Army Chief General Musharraf
addressing a public meeting in Swat asked people to vote for the
Muslim League besides reportedly announcing development schemes
for Rawalpindi. In doing so, he mocked the code of conduct but
when the EC chose not to take notice, it did no great service
Hundreds of complaints flooded
the offices of the Returning Officers and to the Election Commission.
The victims complained about kidnappings of candidates and their
supporters, forcible seizure of polling booths, snatching of ballot
boxes and stuffing by the police. Many protested against biased
presiding officers who would deliberately go slow, taking as long
as forty minutes for a single vote cast in areas where the government
nominees were not likely to win. Where some presiding officers
were caught while stamping ballots they were bailed out the next
criminal cases have been filed against candidates and their supporters,
as well as of shifting of polling stations to hostile areas or
unpopulated areas to prevent voters from casting votes. Blatant
threats were hurled by a Chief Minister boasting that he could
change loyalties in 15 minutes, half the time taken by his predecessor
to do so.
the EC claims that elections were fair or does not seem to follow
up on the complaints or says that no complaints with proofs have
been received it does not help in enhancing the credibility of
polls. Despite promising to announce the results within 48 hours,
the results were delayed by several days amid accusations that
these were being manipulated and changed particularly in Sindh.
after the polls the Election Commission announced heavy turnout
even before the declaration of official results. Media reports
quoting the Election Commission talking of a 60 per cent turnout,
questioned what mechanism was employed to arrive at this figure
so early. In the absence of computerized voting and counting,
a definite figure about the turnout would appear inexplicable.
Several key government figures
including federal ministers Dr Sher Afgan Niazi, Jehangir Tareen
and Awais Leghari, ruling Party MP Firdous Ashiq, former minister
Majid Malik, and others besides the opposition have cried foul.
Is it any surprise that the Election Commission should have become
erosion of citizen's trust in the State and its institutions and
consequently the deepening of the crisis of confidence has been
the second serious casualty of polls. When all the State institutions
bend over backwards and pretend that the elections were party-less
and non-political the mockery must deepen the distrust of these
would not have fallen if it had been admitted that the elections
were party based. By asking people to believe that they were party-less
amounts to insulting their intelligence and eroding the credibility
of the State itself. It would be most unfortunate if hurt by this
crisis of confidence some people begin to demand elections under
the United Nations because its own institutions have proved incapable
of stopping the subversion of the will of the people.
crisis of confidence will only strengthen the prophets of doom,
who claim that Pakistan was a failed State. It is not but a handful
of short-sighted people blinded by self-aggrandisement have done
incalculable harm by lending support to the theory of a failed
state. There is an urgent need to wash such perceptions by restoring
rule of law and respecting the will of the people.
the Askari Park in Karachi on Friday, General Musharraf claimed
that the moderates had won and the extremists had lost in the
elections, not realizing that his agenda of so-called moderation
has actually been a casualty rather than a trophy.
who claims to have won? Those who opposed Musharraf's moderation
on issues ranging from religious columns in passports, to marathon
races, to amendments on Hudood laws and to foreign students in
madrassas have manipulated the State apparatus to make it a one
their claims are true, the anti-moderation group has acquired
greater strength to defy the General's liberal agenda. Yet, he
claims that the moderates have won. How strange are the illusions
by which men sustain themselves.
military rulers have flaunted local governments as non-political
bodies for development at the local level. But in due course of
time they helplessly watched the local bodies turn into heavily
politicized institutions. Holding money and manpower, the local
bodies of 2005 will now acquire greater political clout and ability
to manipulate the National and Provincial Assembly elections,
which may not be far away. The pillar on which General Musharraf
had raised the edifice of sustainable democracy has finally come
writer is a PPP Senator and member of the Defence Committee of