By Saeed Mashaal Bhatti
In the modern world governments are run by the political representatives who are elected through elections. In Pakistan elections are contested on party basis, though some candidates contest as independent candidates. The party which gets a majority in the legislature forms the government. Therefore, the process of the election plays an important role in making or marring the destiny of the country. For electoral process code of conduct serves the basic guide lines. Code of conduct that has been issued by Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) provides the basic philosophy or theoretical framework. But when we see political culture of Pakistani society, there are some differences between practices and philosophy, this difference is the outcome of weak writ of the state or lack of will to implement the code of the conduct.
Calling of foreign observers by Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for election is very good sign as impartial election observers can strengthen an electoral process by providing an independent assessment of election preparations, capabilities, and fairness. As we know that elections have certain financial burdens on the economy. What if those impartial election observers term the election as rigged one? Can our economy and society bear the cost of reelections? The answer is obviously no, as economy is already in shambles and society is gasping under the deteriorating law and order inflicted by terrorism. Therefore, these political outcomes may have some unpleasant repercussions in the political arena so Pakistan as state, government and society has no other option but to go through free and fair election. All political parties should include in their manifesto some assumptions that deal with the political participation in order to restore the trust of masses on the performance of political system.
There should be no intervention from the supporters of the political parties. Election commission of Pakistan should increase the distance of their presence at poling stations so that polling is carried out with out any loss of time or momentum. It will also create a good will gestures for the neutral voters who have no political affiliation or will vote on some standards but are fearful of their lives and security due to flamboyant environment. Show of weaponry becomes a decisive factor in the mind of prone-to-insecurity individuals. So it should be prohibited strictly and sever actions should be taken against those who violates the legal boundaries provided by election commission.
Election commission should give due importance to training and the capacity building of the staff for election. People should be appointed beyond any affiliation or individuals pro-state rather than pro-government should be appointed. Pragmatically, the environment of the polling stations is rife with pressure, confrontations and threats, though it is the true reflection of social circumstances in the society. The officials deputed there should be of minimum 17 BPS who have experience to work under such social situations, hopefully, it would leave less psychological impact on the environment of poling stations.
It is no more theoretical evidence existing only in debates but is bare reality that police has become a linchpin or a stakeholder in the society in terms of power. It has been used by despotic military rulers or even many democratic governments as an agent to serve their interest. So in the period near to general elections certain arrangements are made that can play a decisive role on the end result in political participation. Transfers are initiated by the ongoing government at the behest of potential candidates competing in the relevant constituencies. Transfers prior to three months of election commission should be allowed in coordination with the election commission. The role of police should be minimized on poling stations, security, law and order of the poling stations should be handed over to other law enforcement agencies as politicization of the police have rendered it prone to abuse of power. And under these circumstances definition of political participation stipulated in 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as “every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without … unreasonable restrictions”.
Rules along with prescribed punishments and fines should be displayed at public places before three months of the due dates of election in order to create awareness among masses. These rules along with prescribed punishments and fines should also be present at every poling station. An information system should also be maintained by the election commission to ledge any kind of complaint by citizenry. There should be active response units ready to react to these complaints on the basis of truthfulness under the leadership of judicial magistrate.
Transparent ballot system along with transparent voting system should be ensured as some candidates tend to show or display open allegiance to certain political parties. This action is equivalent to influence the opinion and decisions of others people who are casting the vote. Such individual forces should not be allowed to show off their uncivil behavioral patterns. Such individuals should be punished with fines and even cancellation of his or her right to franchise in order to encourage smooth election process and political participation.
It is also time for intelligentsia, media and civil society to propagate the public for political participation. Masses can only influence public affairs by using the right to political participation. Under international standards, men and women have an equal right to participate fully in all aspects of the political process. It is the time to deliver as a nation as election is not only the vehicle of political change but the true reflection of day to day attitudes and behaviors.