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Electoral malpractices – What next?

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Is history going to repeat itself? 1977 elections in Pakistan spurred a movement under the leadership of Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) against the malpractices done in the elections. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, under the banner of PPP, won the general elections for the second time after 1970. PNA consisted of right wing religious parties which allied against the leftist PPP.

Though he resisted them for some time, Bhutto was unable to stand in front of them for long. He ultimately invited them on table for negotiations. However, that proved to be too late and Pakistan’s political discourse was bound to take another turn. The wide spread protests by PNA and their open allegations of rigging on Bhutto gave way to the worst period in Pakistani history; the dictatorship of Zia-ul-Haq. Is Imran Khan, after showing a spectacular public strength on May 11, 2014 at D-chowk, Islamabad, going on the footsteps of PNA?

His party has started political contacts with opposition parties including PML-Q, Jamat-e-Islami and MQM, in order to give more legitimacy to his demands. Keeping in mind PTI’s street power and Imran’s determinism to keep continuing this movement till results are achieved, it would not be an over exaggeration to say that if this PML-N led federal government do not bow down to their demands, the results could be as dangerous as those witnessed in 1977. I am, however, not pointing towards military takeover or sorts as I believe that the era of ‘adventurism’ is over in Pakistan.

Is this issue of electoral fraud fixed with Pakistan’s fate? When Imran Khan says that every election after that of 1970 was fraudulent, he is not only pointing towards a harsh historical reality, but also giving a food for thought to all sane Pakistanis that until what point would we remain stuck in this quicksand. I would say that even the election of 1970 did not lead to true democracy because Bhutto and Yahya Khan refused to accept the true mandate of the people of Pakistan by not accepting the victory of Mujeeb ur Rehman. 1985 elections were of their own kind; no political party was allowed to contest elections. Only independent candidates were there to choose from. Apart from other things, that led to murder of ideological politics in Pakistan. Then the politics of 1990s saw a musical chair between so called two democratic regimes; those of PPP and PML. Electoral malpractices were again evident by the creation of IJI which had the support of the then military establishment. 2002 elections were manipulated by Musharraf to bring his own cronies to power. Then comes the 2008 elections, which also faced the allegation of being part of an international design in which PPP would be given a term followed by a term by PML-N. Many major parties (Jamat-e-Islami, PTI, nationalist parties of Balochistan) did not even participate in that election, showing their disbelief on the election system.

The reason to repeat this history is to give the readers a flash back of the not so good electoral history of Pakistan. India has just conducted world’s largest elections which have largely been commented as ‘free and fair’. The acceptance of results and Rahul Gandhi’s open felicitation to Modi is something Pakistan can only dream of as today.

All constituencies opened up by election tribunals so far have revealed horrific results. It is not to say that only the winning party was involved in rigging; two of the constituencies opened up showed rigging in favour of PTI, the party most vocal on this issue now.

A detailed and thorough investigation should be conducted on what happened in these elections. We have made political blunders in our history, but it’s even worse when we fail to learn from our mistakes. What happened in 1971? We formed a commission and the famous Hamood Ur Rehman report was published thereafter, it was not shared with the public, and no action was taken against perpetrators. Do we want to repeat the same process again? The only way forward is to bring in lime light the factors that led to electoral fraud, and then correct them. Otherwise, the unforgiving summer of 1977 may become alive, and with even more daunting consequences.

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