Finally the much awaited by-elections were held after 20th amendment being passed by the parliament ensuring independent election commission. It was a litmus test for the democratic parties as how they will respect their own granted freedom to election commission. But yet again they failed to set up a true democratic culture. Throughout the day reports of irregularities were aired by electronic media but it all fell on the deaf ears.
The acclaimed largest democrat parties could not demonstrate democratic values and ensure an atmosphere deemed necessary to hold free and fair elections. All day the fire arms were not only carried along but used freely and unnecessarily by the influential supporters of various candidates. One person lost his life due to shots fired in to air to celebrate win of sitting Prime Minister’s son. It was clearly a violation of rule of law under the nose of democratic elected governments both at the provinces and Centre. Why should one not assume that unchecked use of fire arms was aimed to divert the opinion of poor and under privileged vote bank?
Media through its regular bulletins did cover the incidents with a good airtime but the independent anchors holding talk shows who always talk of rules and upholding of democratic culture remained less vocal or least interested. It may be because of weekend and most of these shows were not scheduled but coming week will still bring an opportunity to them. Let us see how they uphold their years long preaching.
The worst incident reported and covered in Sindh where a candidate for the provincial assembly Waheeda Shah physically assaulted the election staff. This candidate did not belong to a new party but to a party widely known as largest and widely supported by liberal opinion makers across the media.
The particular incident of manhandling of election staff has left a lot of questions on the independence of election commission and rule of law. First question arises what would have happened at the far-flung polling station where media was not present? Even if we believe that all was well everywhere then coming back to this specific incident; How come a contesting candidate Waheeda Shah was allowed entry in to a polling booth? She then attacks Assistant Presiding Officer and a polling agent in the presence of a Police Inspector. Why did Police Inspector not intervene by calling lady police and arresting the violent candidate instead of mere watching. Where was the Presiding Officer? Why did he/ she not exercise his or her magisterial powers and ordered immediate arrest of the culprit then and there.
The above mentioned measures were the legal options available at the spot to authorities but let us discuss the moral obligations of the all concerned; being largest Democratic Party what action has been initiated against their candidate at its level? If party claims to be law-abiding and the most liberal political force of country; they should apologize publicly and withdraw the candidature of this woman.
Where are the other political parties who voted to pass the 20th amendment along with treasury benches; their silence over the issue is heinous? Did they pass the amendment for all this to happen and just political scoring by claiming to have paved the way for autonomous election commission? They need to stand by-election commission on this disgrace at the hands of candidate from ruling party. The gesture of Mr. Zahid Khan of ANP for at least apologizing publicly the incident involving his party is appreciated.
This blog was originally published by @HasanKhursheed at http://hasankhursheed.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/independent-election-commission/