How not to hold a fair election

2018-07-14T00:10:42+05:00 Afrasiab Khattak

The creeping coup that had started in 2014 under the slogan of protest against rigged elections and subsequently adopted the slogan of accountability ( the favourite weapon of every coup maker in the past) after the leakage of Panama papers wasn’t meant for holding free and fair elections. It was fundamentally aimed at subverting the democratic transition that had started after the general elections of 2008 and had resulted in completion of the constitutional term of five years by the elected assemblies and smooth and peaceful transfer of power from one elected government to another one in 2013. Also “ unforgivable “ were the policies of the three time elected Prime Minister Nawaz to normalise relationship with neighbouring countries and to arraign the former dictator General Musharraf before the court for abrogating the Constitution. Like all military coups of the past the current creeping coup also created a king’s party for implementing the agenda of putschists. PTI which has left no stone unturned for the success of the creeping coup is by all definitions the new king’s party which is to be brought in power by every cost. Judiciary which used to validate the military coup in the past after the military takeover this time  led the process of smashing the elected government as open take over by the military has become very difficult if not impossible after strengthening of Article 6 of the Constitution as part of the 18th Constitutional Amendment in 2010. Judiciary has also very generously lent its shoulder to putschists for demolishing PML (n), the main target of the coup, and also for empowering the king’s party. That is why we have come to know the creeping coup as judicial martial law since its exposure for the first time by a senior politician Javed Hashmi in 2014.

As the polling day draws closer, other opposition political parties, who were under the impression that the putschists would target only PML(n), have discovered to their horror that like all previous coups the present one will also target all  political parties for favouring the king’s party. The timing of registration of cases against Asif Ali Zardari and Faryal Talpur and blocking roads for Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s rallies made it clear that PPP will not be allowed to become a threat to the domination of IK and PTI. PPP stalwart and former Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani made it quite clear when he said, “PPP candidates are being pressured into either changing party or withdrawing from candidature. Those who are exerting pressure have been named also. Where is the defence minister? He should come and explain the position”. Similarly suicide attack on ANP election meeting in Peshawar, the capital of Pakhtunkhwa on July 10 was also aimed at disrupting the election campaign of the main opposition party of the province where dismal performance of the PTI provincial government has become a serious liability for the king’s party. Lest we forget PTI has been enjoying cordial and close relationship with Taliban. In 2014 TTP nominated  Imran Khan as their trusted representative for negotiations with the federal government in 2014. The PTI provincial government had offered the facility of opening offices to Taliban and last but not the least the same provincial government gave about 300 million Rupees to the most important factory creating Taliban in Nowshehra. Why wouldn’t Taliban reciprocate and help their mentors? So the cat is out of the bag. Bringing draconian constraints on media by the intelligence agencies for toeing the line is yet another dimension of pre  election rigging project that’s an open secret by now.

But there is always a first time as they say in English. In the past creeping coups would be exposed after years when they would be already history.   But it is  for the first time in the country’s history that political parties have gathered courage to name names of the officers of army actively involved in political engineering right at the time of its occurrence and interestingly enough it isn’t just one party doing it. In January 2018, when provincial government in Balochistan was overthrown for politically engineering the Senate elections in March 2018, Mahmood Khan Achakzai named a brigadier working in army’s intelligence agency for choreographing the operation. But no investigation was made and no action was taken. During the last one week former PM Nawaz Sharif has named a sitting  general and PPP leaders have named three middle rank officers of the same agencies for being involved in rigging the election. How can fair and free elections be imagined on July 25 when the Election Commission of Pakistan has almost outsourced all the major portions of electoral process to the very institution in which a number of officers have been accused by different political parties for being involved in pre poll rigging? It’s nigh well impossible.

So the controversies about the forthcoming elections have reached a level where they can’t be ignored. What can be done to avert the impending chaos in the country over a rigged election after July 25? What should/can the politicians do? Political differences should not turn into tribal feuds even in the heat of electioneering. Serious and mature political leaders should immediately establish contacts by overcoming partisan gulf for convening an All Parties Conference ( APC) on the shortest possible notice for agreeing on measures to save the electoral process from total derailment. Even if they aren’t able to achieve the said aim they will be at least able to create a united front to launch a struggle for defending the constitutional system, democracy and fundamental rights after July 25. One hopes the political polarisation doesn’t degenerate into a zero sum game. All the stack holders should realise that the de facto can not “ secretly “ use brute force to smash the de jure in the age of social media. Rigged elections with zero credibility can’t produce a stable government. With economy in shambles and the ever growing international isolation Pakistan can’t afford chaos. I know about the mass arrests of the PML (n) workers but I have  not touched upon the possible events on the arrival of Nawaz Sharif as these lines are written many hours before his arrival. One doesn’t need to be a prophet to predict that brutal repression against   the followers of largest political party of the country can also have disastrous consequences.

 

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Lahore. She has extensive  experience in writing on development economics and disaster management.

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