A year before the 2007 elections this activity is apparently in full swing in the rural constituencies in most parts of Pakistan, with particular emphasis in the key province of Punjab and Sindh.
So far I have been able to establish three separate strands of these going-ons.
1. Intelligence Agencies are currently engaged in the business of vetting and pre-selecting candidates for the Establishment.
Rather than go into detail, I’ll just quote what Imtiaz Alam, the current affairs editor of The News, recently reported:
As it is quite clear, even much ahead of the next elections, the powers that be are preparing for a far worse election than were held in 2002. Surveys of districts and interviews of the candidates are being conducted by the ISI and other agencies. Provincial and district administrations have been equipped with unprecedented resources to undertake popular schemes. The king's parties are being geared up to have a total sway…
2. Unity of Command – All of the Establishment’s candidates will be chosen expressly by Musharraf.
During my latest travels I came across a PML (Q) office holder from a district in Punjab who told me the following:
Recently all PML(Q) district office holders in the Punjab were summoned to a meeting in Lahore which was addressed by a senior retired bureaucrat. The message he gave to us was crystal clear: All party tickets for the forthcoming 2007 election for both the National and the Punjab provincial assemblies will be handed out by the Presidency, which will be the sole deciding authority. Any dissent against the Presidency’s decision will not be tolerated and be harshly dealt with.
3. The new voting lists are being fixed to favour Establishment candidates.
Considering the voting lists for the 2002 elections were collated and prepared under the auspices of the Musharraf regime why is it necessary to prepare a fresh voting list? All that is required is to ask those who have come of elective age since 2002 to come forward and register (as is done in every democratic country around the world) – but this simply won’t do and the answer is pretty obvious.
Ask anyone in Pakistan what the chances are of the Musharraf regime winning a free and fair election in 2007 and you will quickly understand why Islamabad feels the urgent need for fresh voting lists.
The first step in compiling a fresh voters list is a process called khana-shumari or housing census. Once all the households are enumerated in a particular area, all the adult residents of these households are then called upon to apply to be entered on the voting list.
However there is a hitch. If one’s house has not been counted in the housing census the chances of then getting on the voting list is less than zero.
So what’s now being witnessed in large swathes of rural Pakistan is that many villages and smaller settlements are being effectively ‘erased’ from the public record. Why? Apparently the inhabitants of these places have been traditionally known to vote against PML(Q) candidates.
Obviously in the 2007 elections there will be a dramatic drop in real voting. To avoid this embarrassment the Establishment will most likely resort to a traditional remedy – a number of polling booths set up in the remotest part of a rural constituency, where massive stuffing of the ballot boxes will then take place to counter the drop in voting numbers.
Voila and there you have it!
Your Blogger’s Forecast
The way things are being engineered we will witness a virtual reality election in 2007 which will quite ‘transparently’ provide the Musharraf regime with a majority thanks to a well thought out plan of pre-rigging, particularly in the rural areas of Punjab and Sindh.
So what’s new?
But as I’ve said before, and will repeatedly keep on saying: The rigged elections of 2007 have a strong potential of creating violent destability within Pakistan.
Simply put, the newly fashioned vast disparity of wealth has created a deep and perilous social chasm.
The urban poor – which now include many salaried people – are confronting a nightmarish existence. One only has to take note of the steep price increase of basic edibles such as dal, milk and sugar to realize the enormity of the dilemma these people face simply to feed their families.
Columnist Kamila Hyat recently opined:
The obscenity of a society in which the very rich nibble on food flown in from other continents while the very poor quite literally starve, where demonstrations of sycophancy are of supreme importance to bragging rulers, cannot persist forever. Somewhere in the future, widespread violence spurred on by rage may not lie that far away, and in a system where access to justice is increasingly denied, where the rule of law has broken down and where a deep-rooted sense of unfair play prevails, there is no telling quite what form this surge of anger may take.As I mentioned in a previous blog:
...the rigging of the 2007 elections [might] backfire and set off a protest movement that will quickly get out of the control of the democratic forces and pass into the hands of organized extremists. And woe betide Pakistan then.Pre-Rigging