I have just read the post-election 2013 Report available on the Election Commission of Pakistan website, which is nothing short of a self-indictment. In my reckoning, ECP had no alternative option because its partners in the exercise i.e. UNDP and IFES, would have spilled the beans had the contents been otherwise. Even then, a futile attempt at sugar coating is apparent in the Executive Summary by saying, “Many observers applauded the elections as the most credible in the history of Pakistan.” I respectfully do not agree with this line as I had the opportunity to monitor the General Elections in 1969 as part of my professional duties. I can say with conviction that Pakistan has yet to witness a more transparent and fair event made more significant by the fact that it was held under a military dictator and was instrumental in bringing the charismatic Zulfikar Ali Bhutto into power.

Soon after the current report became public, the ECP made a fool of itself by denying its ownership. In successful democracies, this would be enough to create an uproar in Parliament forcing the government to resign and take a fresh mandate from the people, but the admission of massive institutionalized malpractices and bungling before, during and after the polls did not ruffle a single feather amongst our ‘worthy’ legislators. I am therefore reproducing extracts from Chapter 3 of the document to give readers a chance to decide if the sanctity of their vote was violated or otherwise:

“Provisions of Articles 62 - 63 of the Constitution are subjective, and the application of these clauses varied from one RO to another. This caused inconsistencies in the scrutiny process.”

“The ECP tried to obtain and make public potential candidates’ records of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and NADRA. The scrutiny period was too short, and some of these organizations did not provide information in the required time, so candidates were cleared without proper verification.”

“A centralized scrutiny cell was set up in the ECP Secretariat with members from NAB, SBP, FBR and NADRA to verify the candidates’ nomination papers. Though it was a good initiative, this cell did not perform effectively.”

“ROs received some applications to change polling stations based on personal interests. In some areas, ROs rely on the information provided by political workers for suitable buildings to be designated as polling stations. Influential candidates have small buildings allocated as polling stations where they fear defeat; this way, the turnout is reduced at that polling station.”

“Monitoring Teams were not effective because no resources were provided to them to allow them to discharge their duties efficiently and effectively.”

“ROs often paid more attention to issues that violated the code of conduct but could not take action on own initiative because political parties and candidates would then question their neutrality and impartiality. If Monitoring Teams had to report to ROs on a daily basis, ROs could have directed them to those places for further investigation and could have taken action based on the reports of Monitoring Teams.”

“The polling personnel were not conversant with the use of normal stamp ink and magnetic ink; as such, these inks were not used properly.”

“Some influential candidates shifted their opponent voters to far-flung areas on the electoral rolls so that they could not cast their vote.”

“Form XIV was short of space for candidate names, so ROs had to develop their own forms.”

“The attitude of some of polling agents was disruptive, which made it difficult for polling staff to carry out their duties.”

“Forms XIV and XV (Statement of Count and Ballot Paper Account) were not accurately filled-out by the PrOs…This also resulted in discrepancies in gender-disaggregated data.”

“The Forms XIV were short at some polling stations.”

“Consolidation of results was delayed because Form XIV had to be scanned and fed into RMS. It was only later that ROs were told that the result could be compiled manually and that the forms could be scanned and the data entered later.”

“In some cases, very large numbers of postal ballot applications were received, which did not seem genuine.”

The publication of the ECP Report and the deepening political crisis has now put the spotlight firmly on the only institution in the land, which can constitutionally take notice of our headlong plunge into the abyss. If our apex judicial system fails to do so, even in the light of evidence now surfacing, then the nation can only beg for divine intervention to put things right.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.