Sultan M Hali
ELECTIONS play an important role in building the nation. The upcoming election-2018 can be a turning point for Pakistan, the principal responsibility to bring this change lies with the people of Pakistan. There is a need to educate and sensitise general public of Pakistan regarding their sacred responsibility towards the state and also alert the institutions responsible for the conduct of elections to fulfil their responsibilities in the best possible manner. The cognisance of voters’ rights and responsibilities can be built through emphasizing that casting their vote is a national responsibility of every voter. A big turnout on the voting day leads to true aspirations of the people of country and this is what a state owes to its people.
Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is constitutionally duty bound to organize and conduct the elections ensuring that the elections are conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law and that the corrupt practices are guarded against. The training of polling staff plays an instrumental role in guaranteeing the credibility of the elections as they are the ones to set up the polling booths, facilitate voters, count ballots and fill-out various forms, including the results form. Media has a greater role to play during the upcoming elections. Reporting and coverage of the political parties should be done in an impartial manner. It means that they should not give preferential treatment to a particular political party. Media should remain a watchdog for any unfair practices by an individual or political party. The media also has the onerous responsibility of educating the masses regarding the sanctity of the vote.
The caretaker government must adopt the following additional measures to ensure the enhancement and clarification of the powers bestowed upon the Election Commission of Pakistan and provide measures to penalize those involved in corrupt practices. The caretaker set up needs to provide conveniences to the general public as regards elections, for instance, registration of voters, change of polling city or stations, flexible timings for polling keeping in mind the inclement weather, better administrative facilitates at polling stations for the voters.
The caretakers must also facilitate media coverage of polling on Election Day to ensure fair practices. Owing to illiteracy, there has been a trend in past elections that political leaders resorted to bribing people into casting their vote for them for a fee. This practice must stop forthwith. Even for those people who cast their vote genuinely believing in the leadership qualities of a candidate, there must be an accountability process of living up to their promise of resolving various social issues. Unfortunately, the common practice has been that after being elected into office, the parliamentarian conveniently disregards the promises he or she made during the political campaign and gets involved in mundane affairs or feathering one’s own nest.
The voter should realise the importance of casting their vote in the ballot box of a deserving candidate. Especially those, who have participated in the past elections, when they approach their constituency asking for votes, they should be taken to task for not honouring their past pledges. The Election Commission of Pakistan is undertaking the arduous task of educating the voter in the process of casting the vote: Where to go, how to check the voters’ list; inscribe their choice on the ballot paper, how to fold it and where to deposit it. It is equally imperative to apprise the voter regarding the importance of the vote. What is the significance and weightage of each vote? How the vote can affect the society, the constituency and even the country. Electing the wrong person, those with the track record of ignoring their voters or indulging in corruption, once reelected, will have the power of cheating the nation and desecrating the sacredness of the vote with impunity. Candidates, who are also in the habit of changing their loyalties, must be rejected. After all if one is not sincere to his/her political party, will also not be sincere to the voter.
People going to the polls must be certain in their mind, whether they are casting their ballot in favour of an individual or the party and its manifesto of bringing improvements in the society. Election commission must ensure that the party manifesto of each political party has been publicized in a manner that it is discernible to the voter. Independent candidates too must draw up their agenda to convince the voter how they will benefit the society or constituency and what is their stance on various burning issues. Respect of the voter is of paramount importance. People, who do not respect voter, do not deserve their vote.
Most political leaders, who participate in the elections in Pakistan, generally lack the decorum or grace to accept defeat. They tend to cry foul and accuse of elections rigging. The election commission of Pakistan can preclude the chances of rigging by introducing biometric means of identifying the voter and electronic means of casting the vote. Even our eastern neighbour India has adopted electronic machines for polling thus removing even an iota of doubt regarding rigging.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.