Suddenly the stealing of votes is being highlighted by the same individuals who were selected, trained and then launched for this very purpose. Historically speaking, the ‘Sarkari Leagues’ or the ‘Kings Parties’ were created for this purpose. As a Muslim League child, I have closely watched this day time robbery which has then bred several other kinds of robberies that NAB is now investigating. The first dictator Ayub Khan institutionalised this phenomenon with the launch of his brand of political outfit called Pakistan Muslim League (Convention) with its headquarter at Davis Road Lahore which is currently in the control of the Chaudhry’s of Gujrat through their party called PML (Q). In other words, PML (Convention) through generations has been the incubator of ‘Vote Robbers’.

Last night there was an interesting before-dinner discussion that I was involved in. One of my friends asked how come all former rulers have been bad. Prompt came the reply; Feroz Khan Noon as Prime Minister (PM) served the country with honesty and dedication. With the support of his wife Lady Viqar-un-Nisa, he single handedly got Gwadar for Pakistan. The country has been led by very able and honest politicians; the list is very long (Liaquat Ali Khan, Qayyum Khan, Abdur Rab Nishtar, Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy, Khawaja Nazimuddin, Wali Khan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto etc). The product of ‘Vote Robber Incubators’ has been the worst. Bhutto remains controversial as he was introduced by Iskander Mirza and then continued with Ayub Khan but he finally revolted and launched his own political party to challenge the hegemony of the establishment rule.

Since 1977, every election has been disputed in the land of the pure. An absolute or two-thirds majority has been the dream of every political party, but only PML-N has been able to achieve this not once but twice. Analysts believe that Bhutto was way ahead of his opponents but in his quest for two-thirds majority, the entire electoral process was disputed. PPP has won a record five times but could never attain an absolute majority like PML-N.

Gilgit Baltistan is currently gearing up for elections. There is a caretaker set-up in place to ensure neutrality. PML-N is now complaining of rigging as the new administration is moving officers around. Transfers are a routine matter under a new set-up but a party that relies on inside support is always touchy when its favourites are moved around. In the 2013 electoral contest in which PML-N managed to get an absolute majority, PTI asked to recheck the results of only four constituencies but the request was turned down. In the Election Tribunal three PML-N stalwarts were unseated, while the fourth survived on technical grounds.

In 1970 the election was free and fair but the country was dismembered. Since then the establishment has taken a cautious approach.

Under the existing circumstances, free and fair elections followed by seamless transfer of power seems an uphill task. The elections in 2018 were the most peaceful that I have experienced as only Army personnel in uniform were allowed to enter the polling booths, the infamous and toxic Punjab Police was kept out. The technology glitches were blamed for rigging. There were also some reports of arm twisting by the agencies before the polls, which is also a ground reality in the land of the pure as the record of the public representatives is not clean. When files are opened, the weak and the corrupt chicken out and obey; it has happened so many times yet the defiance of the ‘Vote Robbers’ continues. Delay is their only defence as they cannot come clean. No one has been exonerated thus far, not even Rana Sanaullah in the drug trafficking case; he has been seeking adjournments while his party members roar in the National Assembly that his detention was illegal.

Credible, indisputable elections are only possible if the entire electoral process is handled by neutral hands. Those who come into power without political struggle but with the help of stolen votes have to be weeded out. Those who understand the deadly nature of weeds and the damage they cause know how difficult it is to eliminate them. If the present political set-up is packed up then the weed-out process that would follow will certainly be expeditious, effective and deep, it may be the only viable course to get rid of the robbers and their barons who mob the courts and throw stones at state institutions. Stealing votes is an unpardonable crime that robs the nation of its future and it must come to an end together with its perpetrators.