After about a dozen general and numerous by-elections in the last seven decades, let’s admit that we have miserably failed to learn the art of holding free and fair elections. We have tried the election supervision of the army, judiciary, and civil administration but to no avail. We have tried all seasons, twelve according to Imran Khan, from the summer sunny days to the winter foggy nights, without success. We have experimented with different types of elections, from the presidential to parliamentary, from referendums to local bodies, from universal suffrage to electoral colleges, but all in vain.
Look at the mess created in Daska NA 75 elections on February 19th. The incidents of firing in the constituency started three days before the polling date and gained momentum on the D-day. Violence on election day took two lives and left many injured. The polling was stopped or slowed down at certain polling stations. After all this hullabaloo, around 2 am on the election night, a private channel announced the victory of PML(N) candidate Nosheen Iftikhar, late Zahray Shah’s daughter. The last episode of NA 75 drama was yet to come, however. Twenty presiding officers along with the election results of their respective polling stations went missing, only to turn up at the RO’s office after around 12 hours. The reason for the delay was ‘a visible aerosol consisting of tiny water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air at or near the Earth’s surface, that can be considered a type of low lying cloud usually resembling stratus, and is heavily influenced by nearby bodies of water, topography, and wind conditions.’ Simply put, fog
Such frauds are not unknown to our election history, but there is one change this time that has made the incident unique. The election commission issued a statement pointing out the missing presiding officers, and the lukewarm response of the Punjab IG and Chief Secretary, who literally slept over the issue. The polling station result that the presiding officers brought with them in the morning was rather different from the one they had earlier shared with the polling agents of the political parties at the end of the counting.
How can we have a free and fair elections, under whose supervi- sion, in which weather? The answer appears foggier than ever .
After Daska, there is another election approaching, that of Senate. The government apparently seems quite keen on having free and fair Senate elections, seeking guidance from the parliament, consulting the supreme court, and issuing a presidential ordinance. The Senate elections, however, has all the potential to turn into yet another messy affair, as was the last senate elections or the Chairman senate elections, which means more videos of the legislators counting money, though their release may take a couple of years as has been the case with the earlier video. Open ballot can allow the establishment State’ to exploit lawmakers, says Raza Rabbani. The question remains the same — how can we have a free and fair election? Shall we go back to the basics or hire an alchemist?
Senator Pervez Rashid’s nomination papers were rejected because he was a defaulter of the Punjab House, which revealed an audit conducted by the PH after a decade. The Senate election Returning Officer asked him to deposit the amount. His appeal against his disqualification was rejected by the ECP. Pervez decided not to challenge the ECP decision. While Faisal (Absolute) Vowda, who certainly was a dual national when he won the National Assembly seat, has been cleared by the ECP for the Senate polls. (Will we ever see a free and fair election in our beloved country?)
Interestingly, the PML (N) leadership has accused the government of the election fraud, not the Establishment. That seems a policy shift. Former PM Yusuf Raza Gillani, a PDM joint candidate for Senate from Islamabad, also thinks that ‘the Establishment seems neutral in Senate polls.’ The ISPR chief also said the other day that the Army was not interested in politics. Where does the sunrise from? The west? Kay Khushi Sey Marr Na Jaatay Agar Aitabar Hota.