Fair Elections

According to Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the ex-Prime Minister (PM) of Pakistan, every election since 1970 has been rigged. The list is long; 1977, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2002, 2008, 2013 and 2018, each one of them has been disputed while PML-N claims that they were denied victory in the 2018 electoral contest. In the four test constituencies that were challenged, three PML-N MNA’s were de-seated for rigging while the fourth survived on a technicality. Had the 1970 election been rigged like the ones that followed, civil war in the eastern wing would have been triggered, as it was in 1977 when the results were rejected by the opposition. While Ayub Khan was celebrating his decade of progress for the nation, this time period marked a ten-year decay and the concentration of wealth into a few families.
The stakes are very high for the coming elections of 2023. In East Pakistan, the Awami League enjoyed wide spread and unstoppable support which was exercised through the ballot. When the ruling junta failed to transfer power to the elected representatives of the people, civil war broke out and it resulted in the surrender of the armed forces, followed by the partition. No force on earth can stand up against the will of the people. There are undeniable lessons in history. Darkness has never been able to stall the dawn. Emergence of light is inevitable. The sun shines as it is too bright to be contained by manmade shadows of under hand deceit.
The will of the people must prevail in 2023 through a credible ballot. 13 parties have already been fielded, and a 14 one was just created. It has been named the IPP Isthekam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP). Another bunch of tried and failed politicians are being inducted to take on the most popular leader of his times. With the formation of the IPP and prodding of the PDM, there are fears that rigging will follow on election day but all are aware that any activity of this nature will bring about dire consequences.
It is alleged that in the 1970 elections, the establishment supported Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in East Pakistan and Qayyum League in the Western wing. Maulana Bashani was made to boycott the elections for a one-on-one contest with the Awami League. JI lost badly; some its leaders were tried for treason and punished. The Qayyum League did manage to emerge as the second largest party in West Pakistan in the National Assembly after Bhutto’s People’s Party.
The polls were orderly conducted and the voters were allowed to freely exercise their right to vote. As the system was manual, there was no pre-poll rigging. There was no clash between popularity and acceptability as is evident today.
While East Pakistan stood solidly behind Mujib-ur-Rehman, West Pakistan was divided with Bhutto as the majority leader. In the past, post poll rigging has been tolerated but during and after poll manipulation was not acceptable to the voters. This resulted in the immediate rejection of the results as it happened in the 1977 electoral contest.
Popularity, after a certain range, overcomes acceptability which must be understood and respected for a smooth transition of power. The ballot must be trusted for the sake of political stability for economic viability. Loans and bail out packages are only short term fixes. The economic engine of growth has to be ignited and then run with full throttle. With elected and stable governments, Bangladesh has left us behind. India is rising and shining. Civilian supremacy prevails in both the countries
After 75 years of its existence, four constitutions, four Martial Laws, ten elections, Pakistan is at the cross roads again.

The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation, email: fmaliks@hotmail.com

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt