Guest Blog by By M. Fahid Saleem
“These are the most important elections in the history of country, this will determine the destiny of Pakistan” said different politician and pundits before elections. Unfortunately, the post election debate which should have been focused on its results and its policy implication on Pakistan’s future is surrounded by rigging allegations by every party (PML in Sindh, JUI-F in KPK, Nationalist in Baluchistan and Sindh, PTI in Punjab, PPP in Punjab and other provinces, JI in Karachi etc.)
So much have been written and shown on TV however ECP is convinced that these were free and fair elections. As a business student I did some analysis on election results of ten seats in Lahore (NA-118 to NA-127).
Total number of register voters in most of these ten national assembly seats have no difference with the total number of register voters in their respective provincial assembly seats except in three constituencies (NA-123, NA-124 & NA-126). Number of registered voters in these NA constituencies is greater than their respective provincial seats (68, 2590, 150 respectively). However, unfortunately there is not a single constituency where total number of votes polled for NA is equal to its respective provincial seats. Difference ranges from minus 7055 (Votes polled on respective pp seats are more than that of NA seat) to positive 2841 (Votes polled on NA seat is more than its respective provincial seats). Though the total number of votes polled on most of NA seats were more than their respective PP seats except in case of NA-125 and NA-127, where total votes polled at NA are less than their respective PP seats (4600 and 7055 respectively). Every voter polls two votes, one for NA seat and other one for provincial seat; it means total number of votes polled in NA should be equal to their respective provincial assembly seats. How is this possible a person voted for provincial candidates but not for NA candidates and vice versa? I think ECP is in the best position to answer this question.
Regardless of party affiliation most of the candidates contesting on national assembly seats got more votes than their respective provincial assembly candidates. But surprisingly in three NA seats involving Nawaz Sahrif, Hamza Shahbaz and Imran khan, PTI candidates got less votes than their respective provincial assembly candidates. One may argue PML candidates on NA seats were more popular than their opponents and also from their respective provincial candidates that’s why they were able to clinch the extra votes of PTI candidates. But how can we justify Imran Khan’s seat. Can we say candidates contesting on provincial seats were more popular than Imran Khan, I think ECP is in the best position to answer this question.
Difference of votes polled for PML candidates on NA seats was exceptionally high with their respective provincial candidates on some seats such as NA-125, NA-127, NA-121, NA-122, NA-120 and NA-119 (12779, 13788, 9311, 6809, 9367 and 5366 respectively). Surprisingly two candidates of PML on NA-119, and NA-121 were also contesting on their one respective provincial seats PP-142 & PP-150 respectively, But still they managed to get handful extra votes on their NA seats (9311 and 5366 respectively). Another amazing aspect of the above analysis reveals PML candidates were so lucky in NA-125, and NA-127 where they managed to score highest extra votes (12779 and 13788 respectively) as compared to their respective provincial candidates whereas total number of votes polled (4600 and 7055) on NA seats were less than their provincial seats, yet again ECP is in best position to answer.
Anyone who has casted his/her vote knows that it takes around about four to five minutes to cast a vote, however average time a voter took to cast a vote in these constituencies ranges from 2 minutes and 10 seconds to 2 minutes and 27 seconds. To be specific it took 2 min 25 sec, 2 min 25 sec, 2 min 15 sec, 2 min 24 sec, 2 min 17 sec, 2 min 24 sec, 2 min 24 sec, 2 min 27 sec, 2 min 10 sec, 2 min 27 sec for NA-118, NA-119, NA-120, NA-121, NA-122, NA-123, NA-124, NA-125, NA-126 and NA-127 respectively. All these calculations are based on the assumption that polling started at exactly eight o clock on all polling booths and continued till 6 o’clock in the evening without wastage of a single second caused by any hindrance in the voting process.
No doubt conducting a peaceful election needs appreciation from everyone, especially in current situation when war on terror has led to poor law and order situation in whole country especially in KPK. But at the same time one has all the right to ask, Is this the only responsibility of ECP. I think they are also responsible for free and fair election. Paper for ballot papers will have some security features; we will have camera in every polling station and army will be sitting inside etc. these are not my statements but statements given by different ECP officials before election. Were they able to fulfill their promises?
After listening to analysts on different TV channels, reading newspapers and analyzing ECP issued statements I have come to conclusion some roles which were supposed to be performed by ECP has now been given to contesting candidates. Contestants should make sure presiding officers should reach on time, Since ECP is not responsible nor will they hold an inquiry. Polling agents should make sure that there is no rigging since it’s their job control rigging not ECP’s. If any candidate is unable to do so then he/she will lose and he/she does not have any right to shout against rigging (That’s what most analysts said about PTI). Even after elections if you have any proof of rigging you should go to election tribunals since ECP’s only responsibility is to print ballots, make polling schemes, and announce results. They have nothing do with implementation of code of conduct, or preventing rigging. I know I am going to use some harsh words and you have all the right to condemn it. An honest person (sitting on key position) who doesn’t have the courage or spine to make brave decisions is not an asset but a liability for the institution and nation. Since, he is only used to give legitimacy to all wrong doings on the basis of his own personal character.
Should we add another one in the list of rigged elections in Pakistan? Yes; the current addition might raise the eyebrows of many respected journalists since most of prominent media houses have termed these elections as one of the most free and fair elections in Pakistan’s history. We can’t have absolutely free and fair elections in developing country like Pakistan, let the democracy flourish such discrepancies will be removed with the passage of time; the most common argument given by most proponents of free election. But they forget to realize how can democracy flourish without voter’s confidence on electoral process, what if they lose their pride that their vote really matters. Will they be going to vote again? One can only wish; since sound bites from ground tell you the opposite story.
Note: All the above calculations do not include number of rejected votes since ECP has not uploaded that figure on their web. It can have two implications on our results.
That might increase or decrease the difference in first half of analysis. Even there is possibility of absolutely no effect.
In case of second half of analysis it will surely decrease the average voting time.
~~~~ writer can be contacted at @bilalnuman