The Chief Election Commissioner, Justice (Retd) Fakharuddin G. Ibrahim, observed, in a meeting with the Sindh High Court Chief Justice Mashir Alam on Thursday, that he wanted to bring about a fundamental change in the system through a free and fair general elections. In a country that has had, perhaps, only once experienced the phenomenon of free and fair polls, the resolve is to be highly commended. It is an unfortunate reality that the norm in the country has been rigged polls held on the basis of electoral lists containing names of a large percentage of fictitious voters, putting a question mark on the democratic credentials of the polity. Charges of stuffing the ballot boxes with fake votes, forcible prevention of genuine voters of opposing candidates from exercising their right to vote and other means of rigging have invariably surfaced after the results are announced. And they have not been unfounded, as proved by the electronic checking of voters’ list of the 2008 elections with the actual voters. It has been variously estimated that the strength of bogus voters was as high as between 30 percent and 40 percent. It is expected that the electoral rolls that would be finalised for the coming general elections after objections from the public and political parties have been addressed would be as correct as possible. Reportedly, different political parties and members of the public have already pointed out mistakes in the lists issued by the Election Commission, and the process would continue till the announcement of the date of the polls. To make the lists up to date, the CEC is under constitutional obligation to keep adding names of those who become eligible by the time of the announcement and deleting names of those who have passed away.

It should be recalled that at the time Justice Ibrahim was appointed CEC, quite a few eyebrows were raised because of his old age on the one hand, and the daunting challenge before him, on the other: the drastic pruning of the electoral rolls containing fakes names and making them up to date for free and fair elections to be held. Yet, his clean credentials and the commitment he articulated to make that possible silenced the criticism. All eyes are now on him to see whether he is able to motivate his staff to make foolproof arrangements for the conduct of elections that should inspire the people across the entire spectrum of society to come out and vote for their chosen candidates. At the meeting, the CEC also appealed to the lawyers to come forward and encourage the people to enrol themselves in the list and convince them to exercise their basic right to vote. However, that should apply to all politically conscious and democracy-loving persons in the country. The people are utterly frustrated with the performance of the present leadership and if they knew their votes would count, they would come out in hordes to bring about the much longed-for change.