Finally the clouds over the horizon are over and stage is all set for general elections in Pakistan with the passage of Electoral Reforms Bill 2017. However, the chances of rigging in forthcoming elections cannot be ruled out entirely notwithstanding all the efforts made by the all stake holder. Allegations of pre-poll rigging are doing the rounds while scandalising few ‘bad boys’ and idealising some favourits seems crystal clear on political landscape by ‘unseen forces’.
In a real democratic set-up, the true fountain of the power is the general masses. However, the sovereignty of the masses has always been an elusive phenomenon worldwide. There were times when a single monarch would rule an entire empire with the help of his despotic feudal lords and nobles. Nevertheless, great events in human history such as the Glorious Revolution in England and French Revolution gave world gifts of liberty and freedom. Unfortunately, on a microscopic look, this liberty seems to remain a short-lived notion for the peoples across the globe. Strong power lobbies have devised new ways of manipulating public mind and hence breaking into power corridors easily. Whereas in some countries it is the rule of multi-national companies (MNCs), in others, armies and generals are calling the shots by either monopolising or exploiting the ideals of democracy in the favour of their petty and narrow interests. Mynmar and Egypt are cases in point. In the former case army retains 25 per cent of the seats in legislature; and, in the latter, a former Army General Fateh Al Sisi is at the helm of the affairs. The dictatorships of 1958, 1977 and 1999 also speak volumes about the ambitious generals in Pakistan, who cannot not be termed an exception at all!
However, despite all the odd circumstances, it is heartening to see that the country is toddling towards general elections in a few months’ time. Although many amendments have been made so far to empower Election Commission of Pakistan and the electoral process, it would have been far better to hold a public poll on the electoral reforms in Pakistan to make it all the more transparent.
Few points in this regard are worth highlighting if the political will to put the house in order exists in the real sense of the word. In this context, it is suggested here that ‘simultaneous elections’ on a single day for all the national and provincial assemblies is a faulty procedure which provides much room for pandemonium and rigging.
Since Pakistan is territoriality a large country, it is better to hold general elections phase-wise. It would give a lot benefit to the care-taker governments; as focusing security and concentration on a single area of the country is much easier than doing it simultaneously in the entire country. Therefore, the elections in Pakistan should stretch up on some7 days or for that matter 7 phases where members of National Assembly should be elected for Capital Territory on day first, for Punjab Provincial and National Assembly Seats on day second, for Sindh on day third, for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on day fourth, for Balochistan on day fifth, for Gilgit Baltistan on day sixth and for FATA and Tribal Regions on seventh day. This would definitely reduce the chances of violence, hubbub, and haphazardness that is usually witnessed on the election day and would give a far better edge to the masses to take mature decision in electing those who are to rule them for the next five years.
The notion of phase-wise elections is not a novelty at all. It is in place around the world in many countries including our immediate neighbour India where the general elections of 2014 were held in 9 phases, stretching upon 36 days from 7th April to May 12, 2014.
Moreover, it has been observed that election day becomes a holiday for most of the educated class in Pakistan who, having faced utter frustration with the rotten system, prefer sitting at home in front of their TV sets than going for casting their votes to make a change. This lethargy, many a times, is attributed to the excuse that no favourit candidate is running for election then whom to vote. The world has devised a remedy for such instances also to allow every citizen to have his say in government making process. For instance, the ballot papers in many countries including India, Ukraine, Greece and Colombia have a very democratic option of ‘None of the Above’ to allow a candidate to show disapproval for all the candidates who are running for elections from a particular constituency.
Moreover, some countries like India and Ireland have allowed the voters to rank their choice amongst the running candidates so that they are spared of the feeling that their vote didn’t count and went waste. This can well be copied in Pakistan to extract a real majority candidate to represent the masses on political fora.
Along with these, many other reforms can be brought to make election process more democratic than autocratic by the use of modern technology through creating ease for ‘persons differently-abled’ (PDAs), women and aged. Hopefully, the mainstream political parties would also discuss listed issues other than the Panama, rigging and ceaseless mudslinging on each other.