As many had predicted (including your blogger) the local government elections held on 18th August proved to be a complete and utter farce.
Remember Musharraf’s referendum or Shaukat Aziz’s by-elections in Attock and Tharparkar? Well those were simply minor dress rehearsals for this main event.
On Thursday the ballot boxes were stuffed to the gills to ensure victory to the usual crop of incompetent but usefully servile office bearers (one of them is posing in the photo above left - as you can see these people will do anything to satisfy their political masters!).
The policemen were of course deputed in their thousands to make sure no one dare interfere in these officially organised proceedings.
Here is what Islamabad-based diplomats told London’s Financial Times:
Voter turnout has been falling in Pakistan because of widespread pre-poll rigging and this election, which has been relatively calm, is expected to follow the pattern. “People are getting less interested because they know votes are rigged,” said another western diplomat. “In the 1970s the turnout would be 50-60 per cent. Now it's in the low 40s.”
Here is what an irate columnist said in today’s edition of the Daily Times
- The upcoming polls appear to be a repeat performance of the by-election fought by Shaukat Aziz in Attock.
- General Musharraf is a “brave” man like all those who seize power. He does not care about what people think of us in the world so long as the US administration does not cry “foul”. The local opposition is too weak to do anything.
- The post of the nazim suddenly has lost favour with the regime. He has been made an NCO under the chief minister, thanks to the indiscriminate amendments that have been made to the original order. This proves that civilian institutions, like the constitution, are a hoax.
- The DPO [previously known as a District's Superintendent of Police] has also been made directly subservient to the chief minister. Some opposition leader said the other day that only rigging was “transparent” all over the country.
- The local elections will only bring in a crop of servile office-bearers. It appears to be a dress rehearsal for the drama that will be unleashed on the people of Pakistan in 2007, as the general would like to continue in power with the help of his hangers-on in defiance of the constitution.
- The CEC’s office remains stigmatised due to its infamous history. Expecting it to conduct fair elections is akin to asking for the moon. There is nothing much that a “civil servant”, however well-meaning, can do except resign. However, Pakistan is not known for such principled conduct.
- So the CEC is selectively using “sound and fury” against the opposition mullahs while the Q-league chief ministers in Punjab and Sindh disregard the election law/rules as their master disregards the constitution of Pakistan which has no defender except the silent majority or a muzzled opposition.
- Given our sordid history, we may have to outsource the elections if we want to ensure that they are fair and free.