Elections-2013; don’t shrug off rigging allegations

13 May

rigPakistan’s Elections 2013 were unique in all respects; the youth was enthusiastic to the scale not seen heretofore, voters were very much committed to cast their votes without contestants’ logistical support and there was a festive mood all around. The polls were fun with families very much a part of the festivities. The spirit of changing the fate through ballot was no doubt infused by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. A new political culture has taken over where rallies were held and votes cast in relative peace and calm. Everyone was politically motivated to use his force of ballot to make a new Pakistan.

Pakistan’s history is replete with ugly incidents of violence by the goons of political parties in rallies and at polling stations. This did not happen exactly like the past for the violence was perpetrated by the terrorists opposed to democracy and not the parties. There was no wide-spread rigging like the one witnessed in 1977 and afterwards. The Election Commission (ECP) had made fool-proof arrangements for the voters to locate their polling stations without much hassle, via mobile text service. There was a Code of Conduct and the watchful media.

The elections have thrown up a mandate of sorts; PML (N) in Center and Punjab, PTI in violence-ridden KPK, PPPP in Sindh and a hotchpotch of various parties in Balochistan. All the parties in power till March 2013 were routed. The voters spoke loudly.

However, the party holding power in Karachi consider responsible for all the violence in that city has continued to hold its grip on the city. And this has happened through the power of muscles and not the ballot as it is generally perceived by a cross-section of voters. There are complaints of wide rigging in order to keep the city under the thumb of one party.

The allegations may or may not be correct but there are some interesting incidents; the polling at nearly all constituencies could not start before noon, one candidate a convert from PPPP to MQM got record 170,000 votes in a period of three hours’ polling and the when the affected parties staged a protest rally next day, the chief of MQM threated violence and secessions if his party’s “mandate” was challenged. These very facts alone make the integrity of the entire polling exercise in Karachi very questionable. The MQM chief’s reaction shows that everything was not normal; there was some game being played somewhere. The protest rally against MQM electoral victory is significant in the sense that no party in Karachi had the courage to challenge the party in the past, and if this was being done now, it was the real change.

Anything said about the city of Karachi would never sound exaggeration to those who have been living under fear in that city. The TV footages only substantiate what people think of who is the boss in that city.

The complaints of rigging in Lahore also should be taken seriously if the transparency of electoral exercise is to be ensured. The complaints are generally about a constituency where one of the stalwarts of the winning party has won the election. There will be no harm to investigate.

Remember, PTI has emerged as a force to reckon with, it is a breath of fresh air in the stinking air of Pakistani politics. This is the party which has given hope to millions. It has mobilized voters to exercise their right. If the truth is not brought out and those millions disappointed, it will cost the system very dearly.

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