Volume 22 Issue 7, July 2018


The general elections in Pakistan are around the corner. The main concern that people have is whether these polls will be transparent. Most people are under the impression that the electoral system in Pakistan is rigged. Their discernment is based on past practices. Each and every election held in Pakistan has been tainted with cries of foul practice or pre or post poll rigging, apart from the elections in 1970. While the 1970 elections may be considered fair but the political parties that did not get maximum votes refused power to be handed over to the winner, Sheikh Mujib Ur Rahman, who was the leader of the Awami League of East Pakistan. This laid the foundations for a revolt by the Bengalis and the subsequent secession of Pakistan’s eastern wing and the creation of Bangladesh. That is another topic.

Coming back to the people’s concerns of rigging in the 2018 general elections, most of the phobia pertains to the weak structure of democracy in Pakistan. Pakistan has been ruled by military juntas for more than half of its existence. The applecart of democracy has been toppled far too many times to allow the growth of democracy. Secondly, even when the armed forces have not directly been in power, it is perceived that it has wielded enough influence on the election process.

The absence of a democratic environment causes every loser in the elections to believe that he or she was the victim of poll rigging. No loser has had the courage or political maturity to accept defeat with grace. Another reason which causes doubts and also leaves the field open for rigging is the rejection of the electronic methods of casting the ballot. Even India, where the political milieu is not very different from Pakistan’s, has adopted biometric methods for the identification of voters so an electronic method of casting vote can be introduced and the chances of fraud are reduced. This has not been possible in Pakistan so far.

Polling analysts predict the victory of certain individuals or political parties through “x” number of votes. The gullible masses and even the political leaders, devoid of education or political acumen, claim rigging to have occurred when their expectations are not met or the result is contrary to their predictions.

In view of the current political environment in Pakistan, the outgoing Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) is constantly casting aspersions of pre-poll rigging. Its leader, Mian Nawaz Sharif was deposed after being found guilty of not having been truthful and reliable. He considered the charges flimsy and went to the masses. The number of people swelling the crowds, either brought under coercion or for mere curiosity, raised the false perception of popularity of Nawaz Sharif and the masses rejecting the Supreme Court’s verdict of disqualifying Nawaz Sharif from contesting for public office for life. Notwithstanding the trial of acquiring pelf from unlawful means, Nawaz Sharif continues to claim that his removal has been part of a conspiracy to deprive his political party of their rightful place to rule the country.

The politicians fail to realize that unless they deliver on their promise to serve the masses, people will continue to reject them. In the 2008 general elections, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was elected on a wave of sympathy for its slain leader Benazir Bhutto, who was brutally assassinated by a suicide bomber on the eve of the elections. Unable to capitalize on the opportunity and relying instead on the dubious practice of feathering their own nest, the PPP failed to get the requisite number of votes to rule in 2013. The PML (N) too, despite launching some mega projects, has failed to convince the masses that it is sincere in providing basic amenities of education, employment, health, energy, water, law and order, sewerage, etc. Its failure to meet the requirements of the people has disgruntled many of its erstwhile supporters. Some may vote for them because of pressure from village elders but the corruption charge against them has also disillusioned the masses.

Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) raised a hue and cry about poll rigging in the 2013 elections in four constituencies and organized massive protest rallies and sit-ins but failed to de-seat the ruling party. It had the golden opportunity to transform the lives of the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but its lacklustre performance will be taken into consideration during the polls in 2018. Imran Khan’s own non-seriousness regarding critical issues, incurable habit of shooting himself in the foot by making irresponsible statements, which he regrets later, may also make some serious voters think twice before electing him to rule Pakistan.

Many observers believe that the armed forces and the Judiciary have teamed together to keep PML (N) out of power and influence the polls. The armed forces are certainly a stakeholder of peace in Pakistan but that does not necessarily mean that it will cast its “khaki shadow” on the election results.


The writer is a practising journalist. He contributes to the print media, conducts a TV show and produces documentaries.      
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