Essence of secret ballot


IN the recent past as well as a few days ago, on two occasions, the Senate of Pakistan crowned two men with scintillating successes who did not have requisite majority in the body to muscle their way through. On ceremonial front, it was Sadiq Sanjrani who first surprised ruling party, PML (N) by clinching Senate Chairmanship to his name in 2018 while riding on the shoulders of opposition parties. Secondly it was no confidence move against him a few days ago. This time it was opposition parties which fell prey to him. On political front, both the time, it was Imran Khan who outgeneraled his political opponents fair and square with straight bat on front foot. On the eve of election of Senate Chairman in 2018, main match was being predicted between PPP and PML (N) because of their numerical strength in the House and sordid and unsavory tactics to win over loyalties of participating Senators in the election on which both were equally adept. The Zardari was arrogantly confident to win Chairmanship to notch up his phony reputation of Zardari Sub Pay Bhari. A win was also expected to fetch political mileage in general election. PML (N) was also equally confident to occupy the slot comfortably. The independents from Balochistan had no extravagant plans. Probably they would have felt content in league with any of them for slot of Deputy Chairmanship albeit they had more intimate contact with Zardari at that time. Everything was going as business as usual until Imran Khan jumped into fray with a bang.
His demand from Baloch independents was simple, straight and unambiguous. Have all my 13 votes but only for a Baloch on Chair of Senate Chairman. Initially amateur CM of Balochistan, Mir Quddus Bizenjo, dragged his feet but after second meeting with Imran Khan, he was different man in confidence and stature and high flying Zardari had to cave in and sit on his bandwagon. The result was Sadiq Sanjrani in robe of Senate Chairman, Saleem Mandviwala of Zardari’s nominee on inconsequential seat of Deputy Chairmanship and batch of honor to Imran Khan morally as well as politically for handing over Senate Chairmanship to Balochistan – a good tiding, releasing a wave of joy and satisfaction across the entire impoverished province. Cornered by ongoing process of accountability, opposition parties, known in common parlance a ruling elite, are desperate to clutch at every straw to save their skin. The first ever no confidence move against Senate Chairman, Sadiq Sanjrani, could also be easily construed an act of desperation to pressurize the government to deal with them softly on accountability plane. Much to their dismay, this has turned out to be a bomb that exploded on their face. The Sanjrani triumphed with government of Imran Khan at his beck and call. In process, Imran Khan bagged the maximum gloriously as someone remarked that in July 2018 general election, he secured national assembly. In 2019, it is Senate where he could think of sail through despite where combined opposition has thumbing majority and his party has only a handful number of seats.
Trembled by shock defeat, opposition parties en masse indulged themselves into diatribe of all sort. They even called their own fourteen dissenting fellow Senators Mir Jaffer and Mir Sadiq for selling their souls to the devil. The provision of secret ballot was especially on their butt of derision and criticism without feeling need of introspection within. They alleged that these people have sold their conscious and harmed democracy for their personal interests while taking refuge behind curtains of secret ballot. Based on conventional wisdom, pros and cons of secret balloting outweigh method of show of hand by far measure. This is aimed at forestalling attempts to influence participating individuals in elections by intimidation, coercion, blackmailing and potential vote buying. Conceptually a majority for a particular right cause could only be possible when members are at liberty to vote in a way that does not always coincide with, predetermined by their respective parties. Admittedly, procedure of secret ballot could also be used by dishonest individuals or vested interests to serve their ulterior ends and purposes however, yet it does not make a compelling case for its abandonment in favor of show of hand.
Instead of crying hoarse on their shocking defeat, perhaps, it is more pertinent for opposition parties to reflect soberly within and take stock of culture of political opportunism and expediency which they have themselves advanced for their petty interests. Let us take the example of Senate elections held in 2018. These were termed the most tainted elections by all and sundry from nomination of candidates to polling of votes by members of assemblies. The thinly veiled horse trading and political machinations were seen at work massively all around by our ruling elite without flicker of remorse in their eyes. Similarly no confidence move against Sadiq Sanjrani did not present genuine motivation behind the move rather, sounded illogical to every sensitive heart and mind. The Sanjrani is a decent and presentable man. As Chairman Senate, his conduct defy reproach of any kind. He has strong credentials. Besides, he was also chosen Senate Chairman by PPP which now was in vanguard to unseat him. This made a sorry spectacle. Probably sordid past of opposition parties is the chief cause for their embarrassment in succession from the time they have been dislodged from power corridors.
— The writer, a retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.

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