Last obstacle to democracy

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And this must be removed

When the young warriors of the first generation of Pakistan decided to take on the evil empire of Ayub Khan, it was widely believed that it would be our first and last crusade for democracy. The 1970 election was free and fair. While the Eastern wing voted for autonomy, the West opted for social equality – both of which were unacceptable to the establishment. Quaid’s Pakistan was dismembered but the stranglehold continued.

Every election since then has been manipulated. Democracy cannot survive without the sanctity of the ballot as such. The march of the young warriors continues despite our age and receding grey hair line. From the first lathi charge in 1968 to the last in 2008 there is 40 years of relentless struggle for democracy and rule of law. Most battles have been fought and won on the streets, the latest being the restoration of judiciary followed by the restoration of the 1973 constitution and then the democratic transition of the government.

Free and fair election remains the last obstacle to democracy and perhaps will be final crusade of the now old warriors of the first generation of Pakistan.

In the May 2013 elections three institutions were relied upon to ensure the sanctity of the ballot (the Election Commission, the Supreme Court and the Media). None of them were able to meet the expectations of the people of Pakistan. The rogue elements prevailed at the ballot and robbed the masses of their right to rule. A strategy has to be formulated to ensure a fool proof mechanism to determine the will of the electorate. Over the years the establishment politicians have made serious inroads into the administrative set-up in urban Sindh and Punjab which has to be dealt with.

In Karachi serious irregularities have been reported in NA-256 and NA-258. Lahore also witnessed serious violations. The election commission seems helpless and has promised the use of technology like electronic voting to deal with the menace of rigging also called ‘Election Day Dynamics’ by the rogue elements operating in the political arena.

The youth of Lahore rejected the manipulated election results and a spontaneous ‘Dharna’ was started in the DHA area which continued for weeks. Both the PTI and the PPP accepted the results of the 2013 elections to avoid a 1977 type situation which resulted in the khaki takeover and the devastation of the Zia era.

There were a lot of similarities in the 1977 and 2013 ballot. In 1977 a democratic transition could have established the rule of ballot under the unanimous 1973 constitution. Instead the country and its institutions were derailed. Thank God the same approach was avoided and sanity prevailed, as such the transition of power was not disrupted.

The ECP alone cannot deliver a free and fair election. It is a huge operation in which several state institutions are involved. Judiciary, education department, police and revenue officials to name a few, and they all watch individual interests. Administrative neutrality has been seriously compromised. The entire process in Karachi has become suspect due to use of improper ink for thumb impressions. The ECP could only provide the specifications, while the election-day operation was carried out the local staff posted at the polling stations. The returning officers (ROs) had a major role to play in delivering an honest ballot which they failed to perform.

A strategy has to be formulated to deal with rogue elements in Karachi and Punjab. Data of irregularities has been published and presented. The next logical step is to approach the Supreme Court for relief. Judicial accountability relies on evidence which is available against both beneficiaries of the tainted ballot namely the MQM and the PML-N. The court can either disqualify the parties involved in tampering the will of the people or order reelection with neutral administrative officials brought in on temporary basis for conducting the elections and then flown out.

With long stints in power and with the connivance of the evil forces of the establishment, these political parties have destroyed the concept of civil service. The inspector generals (IGs) of Police are transferred and posted at will like domestic servants. When the same approach was tried on the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) the reaction was uncontrollable and the government was toppled and prime minister was captured. The COAS then tried to dictate the superior judiciary and even imprisoned the judges some years down the road, the public came on the street in protest and the fourth khaki dictator was sent packing.

Pervez Musharraf is now getting ready for another exile. When we marched against his government the marchers passed by the Army chief’s house on GT Road. Some of them wanted to capture the usurper while others were in favour of surrounding the National Assembly, in the end we returned empty-handed on the assurances of the leadership. Finally the chief justice was restored when we decided to march again.

The young warriors of the first generation are now old but battle hardened. In order to hand over a progressive and democratic Pakistan as envisioned by Quaid and Iqbal we will march again and again till we achieve our objective. A free and fair ballot is the last obstacle to put the country back on track and move away from Nadir Shahi imposed by the four khaki dictators and their camp followers. Pakistan was designed as a constitutional democracy and all obstacles in its path have to be removed.

Dr Farid A Malik is former Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Dr. Farid you must be suffering from dementia or your knowledge of our history is as tainted as your looks with black hair etc.Unless it is a habit to lie you cannot rewrite history it is for everyone to see. East Pakistan separated because of your socalled democrate Bhutto.This country is in this state because of Bhutto and minions like you.Remmember Ayub Khan was the leader who was respected and not treated like today's loaders at home and abroad.

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