Against all odds, Dr. Yasmin Rashid valiantly fought against Begum Kulsoom Nawaz – and the rest of the PML-N political machinery – in the recent by-election in the NA-120 constituency. Under this national assembly seat, there are two provincial seats PP-139 and PP-140. Dr. Yasmin’s father-in-law Malik Ghulam Nabi won twice in PP-140 as a ticket holder of PPP. Malik Sahib served as provincial Education Minister. He was a fire brand speaker and a people's man, who openly mingled with them. 

Following the old traditions of her family politics, she decided to go for a door-to-door campaign in the constituency. She encountered no go areas in the heart of the city. PP-139 is controlled by the Mujawars of Al Hajveri Data Gunj Buksh while PP-140 is under the control of the ruling party – a product of General Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorial regime.

Despite her efforts, Dr Yasim could not break the hold of the ruling party over the constituency. Over thirty petitions were filed with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), all of which remain unheard. In addition to this high handedness, 29000 voters could not be verified despite the specific orders of Lahore High Court (LHC). The presence army men inside and outside the polling stations was indeed a deterrent. However, only the names and credentials the people who influenced the election process in the area can shed light on the conduct of this electoral exercise in Lahore, the heart of Pakistan. Certainly all is not well in the metropolis. 

For the democratic order to flourish this stronghold, and other like this, have to be dismantled; the influence wielded by the ruling party in these areas needs to be curtailed.

The account of the events by Dr Yasim’s supporters presents a worrying picture; the ECP and its appointed RO’s were allegedly highly compromised while the bureaucrats, teachers and policemen work directly under the command of Raiwind. Complaints went unheard and FIRs were not registered. NADRA lists are also seriously flawed. In addition to bogus votes, families were deliberately spread out to various polling stations making it difficult for the voters to cast their vote. These are serious allegations, which must be investigated. 

The dismantling of this network has to start now for the next election has to be free and fair. There has to be a major transition to move from monarchy to democracy. The members of the ECP should be apolitical and should operate from the Chief Minister’s Secretariat on Club Road. All postings should be finalized and scrutinized to include the entire administrative machinery of the city. Once posted, the personnel should stay in their positions and their performance be watched. Revenue department is in a mess that needs major correction and focus and so are the departments of education and health. Their political disconnect has to be ensured. 

The Nasir-ul-Mulk commission pointed out several irregularities in 2013 electoral exercise, not one of them has been corrected. Elections in 2018 will be no different unless those irregularities are investigated and the structural flaws that have allowed them to develop fixed. PML-N will emerge as the largest party in the house not because of its popularity but because of the weak electoral system in our country. Now it is time to correct the mistakes of the past. Karachi was taken out of the chokehold of violent political groups through combined legislative and military action, there is no reason we should be afraid of achieving change in Lahore.  With the support of the army – like the deterrence they provided by guarding the polling stations in NA-120 – and the ECP – which can ensure that the electoral process is clean and above board – we can begin dismantling these incontestable areas.