Dr. Umar Khan
Recounting and thumb impression audit for clarification of electoral doubts
The recently concluded elections are probably the most controversial in the history of Pakistan including the notorious 1977 elections which paved the way for Zia’s martial law. PTI started questioning fairness of these elections and was soon joined by MQM, PPP, JUI, JI and even PML(N) in certain seats. This development has seriously affected the standing of results making all this exercise less credible. Luckily NADRA came for rescue and offered to arrange a recount in the questionable constituencies along with thumb impression audit for a little expense which appellants can be made to pay. Nawaz Sharif and PML(N) being the biggest winner have the most at stake and if clean as they claim, should have jumped at this opportunity to come out as just winners and expose the bad losers. Election commission can also improve its credibility and integrity through this exercise as some appear to be questioning viciously. Surprisingly none of them is interested in using technology to clear doubts hovering on these election results.
I was surprised and flabbergasted as to why winners who are victims of aspersions on these elections aren’t keen to come out clean and expose the culprits or the naggers.
If recount of the polls with thumb impression audit is done with the help of new technology either the winners of elections will come out clean or in other case bogus polling will be exposed. These supposed inconsistencies might not have affected the results. Once bogus polling is exposed, then with the help of same NADRA we will be obliged to question the persons whose thumb impressions were repeatedly used for bogus voting. The presiding officers and other polling staff who let this happen will also be needed for questioning. Naturally these officials can’t indulge in such dishonesty without any coercion which might expose their high powered backers. These in turn can ultimately expose the forces behind this exercise.
Elections determine who assumes and exercises power, so naturally many try to influence its outcome. State apparatus in Pakistan didn’t want to lose their grip on power after partition and wasted 24 years before holding the first general elections. Establishment tried to manipulate the results of the first elections held in 1971 but did it very awkwardly failing miserably. Ultimately establishment’s failure to accept the popular verdict in 1971 broke the country into two but the lust to influence election results didn’t diminish.
After the sudden death of Gen Zia in 1988, establishment was forced into a situation where its nemesis PPP led by BB appeared to be clearly winning the elections. Establishment considered PPP as a security risk secretly proclaimed stopping the PPP and BB from coming to power a matter of national interest and worked hard to block their path. An unknown businessman from Lahore who was working as CM Punjab, on the insistence of some Generals was picked as BBs challenger and all resources were used to make him a political leader of standing that could challenge the popularity of PPP and BB. All facilities were made available to him including the deep connections of the establishment with the media. Strange indecent slogans were devised and even inter provincial feelings were aroused and used. PPPs imminent clear majority was blocked.
All this might have been unfair but even more negative elements were put into play. New ways of scientific election rigging were devised by the disciplined agencies with the help of bogus voting lists and taught to their protégés in politics. The political class associated with the establishment was led by no other than Nawaz Sharif who turned out to be a good student and learned all these unfair techniques well. Supreme Court judgment in Asghar Khan’s case exposes this unholy nexus very clearly. No wonder in Punjab only the old experienced horses won seats leaving the inexperienced shocked. Even PTI only won the seats of oft criticized new entrant turncoats in Punjab.
What this resulted in was that we knew the winners before elections quite accurately in the 90s. I still remember PPPs stalwart Aitzaz Ahsan saying publicly on the stage in 1993 elections that those who ousted Nawaz won’t let him back, so vote for me. The same trend continued in 2002 elections where Musharraf’s supporters were to win, and they did. 2008 elections might have been a bit of aberrancy due to BBs replacement with Zardari but the trend continued.
Before the 2013 elections the decisions were apparently made and their implementation was a forgone conclusion. Nawaz was openly meeting the representatives of foreign powers of all types being treated as a dignitary, while all surveys were predicting his return to power. Surveys and their effect on election results at times appear like the chicken and egg scenario, not knowing which came first, do the surveys influence the popularity or otherwise.
Local power brokers also show their worth in front of international players by influencing the election results or may I say ensuring victories for the desirable and defeat for the undesirable.
A quick look at the election results and much is cleared. The COD and its backers must be delighted as it was followed religiously with centre changing hands while Punjab staying with PML(N) and Sind with PPP. New spoilers like PTI are effectively marginalized.
So we see that there appears to be a list of well entrenched forces interested in keeping the current election mechanism where they can influence the outcome. Unfortunately in this setup factors other than the voters have final say in the outcome of elections.
Lack of trust on the electoral process caused by questionable elections breeds apathy among the electorate with a feeling of helplessness that nothing can change. The recent elections were different because electorate got really charged up which has now converted to a feeling of resignation with a hidden rage boiling down the surface waiting to rip open. We must not let it happen. A disinterested public in a country facing massive problems like Pakistan is not a good omen; let’s not hurt their belief in democracy and rule of law.
Unfortunately due to all these discrepancies and allegations our elections have attained the credibility not far from Iraqi or Afghan elections. We certainly deserve better. After all we are not occupied.
Democracy should be felt and seen too. Ideally there should be a recount with thumb verification of all the doubtful seats to clear all qualms. However if all this isn’t possible then maybe electronic voting in future is the answer. If third world countries like India and Philippines can use it so effectively so can we. We can start by having electronic voting in bye elections scheduled in the near future. After all we have ATMs in every nook and corner distributing BISP payments to the poorest making us well placed to convert to electronic voting. This way we can effectively get rid of paper votes, boxes and the enormous staff which creates confusion and doubt. Democracy is important for Pakistan and we must strengthen it by all means possible and removal of doubts is one of them. Pakistanis have shown their trust in democracy and it must be valued and not allowed to ruin. People disenchanted with democracy can end up with worse options.