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Poll ‘Rigging’, Blame Game and ‘Ineffective’ Bureaucracy!


Muhammad Faisal Ali Ghumman

The phenomenon of pre, during and post rigging in national elections and by-polls has become a common feature in the 73-year political history of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Opposition always seems blaming ruling parties or coalitions for hijacking polling process and vice versa. And now the picture in Sialkot’s NA-75 by-elections isn’t different this time.

Smelling a rat in by-polls, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has recently announced that by-election results have been nullified and re-polling will take place in the entire constituency on March 18.

The PML-N had requested the commission to hold polling again in the Daska constituency as the February 19 election was marred by controversies and clashes.

In the short order released today, Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja said after the arguments heard and record perused, the ECP has come to the conclusion that “the election in the subject constituency has not been conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in a transparent manner”.
“From the perusal of available record produced by the parties, the Returning Officer, as well as collected by the Commission through different sources, we have come to the conclusion that a conducive environment was not available for the candidates and voters of the constituency and the election in the subject constituency has not been conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in a transparent manner,” it read.
“Incidents of murders, firing and injuries, bad law and order situation in the subject constituency [created] harassment for voters and other circumstances leading to make the process of results doubtful/unascertainable,” the ECP order noted.
On the one hand, the ECP has ordered the authorities to remove officers who were negligent in the February 19 by-polls. But on the other Prime Minister Imran Khan has given the government legal team a green signal to challenge the ECP’s order to conduct re-polling in Sialkot’s NA-75 constituency.
The ECP not only ordered the removal of the Gujranwala region commissioner and regional police officer, Sialkot deputy commissioner and district police officer, and Daska assistant commissioner for being negligent in their duties, but also recommended the Establishment Division to suspend them from service. The government’s legal team intends to challenge the removal orders too.
In prevailing circumstances it appears that the voting process at polling stations was marred by violent elements and the district administration remained silent spectator. The disappearance of presiding overs under the pretext of foggy weather is beyond understanding and rather an absurd joke.
Usually, the DC and DPO directly being supervised by the Commissioner and RPO make final arrangements at polling stations and monitor transportation of ballet boxes before and after polling with the help of their teams. Similarly arrangements are also made to prevent any untoward incident in the light of intelligence reports. 
The ECP’s logic to transfer four officers and suspend them from service for either being negligent or acting as silent spectators carries weight up to some extent. The merit and rule of law limits the field officers to prevent any illegal activity or conspiracy plans even at the cost of their postings. The other option for the officers is to request transfer before any election activity to save themselves from any allegation, embarrassment or their tilt towards any party.
If I am not weak in my memories, a senior police officer had requested his transfer from Sahiwal soon after he was conveyed from the office of Chief Minister Punjab to extend undue favour to the ruling party’s candidate during by-elections held in the tenure of PML-N. There are few such instances we can also find in the past. 

Unfortunately our majority civil servants have miserably failed either to take independent decisions or follow merit in any official task as they perhaps are afraid of losing their key postings. The political regimes also spare no time to use these bureaucrats as their tools.

In addition as usual blame game has initiated among political parties, and between ruling PTI and ECP to defy orders of each other, which means nothing will establish during investigations (if launched) who hijacked NA-75 pre-elections process and on whose behest?

Faisal Ghumman

–The writer is blogger, Editor-in-Chief lahoremirror.com, former Web Editor Pakistan Today, former English Content Specialist 92 News HD, Ex-Editor Daily The Business and Ex-Correspondent Daily Dawn 

He can be reached at alfaysal77@gmail.comhttps://twitter.com/alfaysal77, https://www.facebook.com/LahoreMirror