EDITORIAL: Voters’ list fiasco - Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP’s) press release issued last month that close to 37 million voters on the electoral lists are bogus has stunned observers, leading some to argue that it has rendered 45 percent seats of the national and provincial assemblies dubious. While it speaks volumes about the weak performance of the ECP prior to the 2008 general elections, the argument on legitimacy of parliament does not hold water. The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) was created in 2000 and delegated the task to register the citizens of Pakistan on a computerised system and issue them Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs). At the time of the 2002 general elections, old electoral rolls were used and voters were allowed to present both old ID cards and CNICs as identification documents. During the six years from 2002 to 2008, the ECP had to update the electoral lists according to the latest data available. One would think that in the presence of NADRA, which has the most reliable documented record of the eligible voters, the ECP’s task had become easy. However, it seems the ECP did its own parallel documentation and did not reconcile the data collected by its staff with that of NADRA, leading to such blatant discrepancies. This is not the first instance of the ECP’s poor performance but this time it has severely marred the credibility of the current dispensation. Earlier, the issue of fake degrees had assumed epic proportions when a number of legislators were disqualified, while others resigned for fear of disqualification. The ECP failed to get the degrees presented by the contesting candidates verified from their respective universities. Hence the Supreme Court’s ire against the ECP for not doing its constitutional duty is perfectly justified.

If the very basis of democracy, the electoral process, is called into question, then the whole edifice created from that exercise becomes dubious. That is why some news reports have gone so far as to declare 45 percent seats of the national and provincial legislatures dubious. However, before making sweeping statements, things must be analysed rationally. The 37 million fake voters are spread over many constituencies throughout Pakistan and it has not been investigated whether all these fake votes present on the lists were actually cast. Moreover, they were the result of the failure of the ECP to complete the task of updating the electoral rolls in time and not intended to be used as ‘fake’ votes. The one party that could be blamed for using fake votes in its favour was the outgoing PML-Q. However, PML-Q suffered a humiliating defeat in the 2008 elections and even its central leaders, including Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, lost their respective seats. Therefore, without verifying how many fake votes were cast, one cannot question the legitimacy of the current parliament. If the number of fake votes cast in each constituency was marginal, then the results are reasonably acceptable.

This issue speaks volumes about the need to make the ECP autonomous and competent. Pakistan returned to democracy after great struggle and can ill afford this blunder resulting from the poor performance of a state institution. Without an independent, impartial and competent election commission, the legitimacy of democratically elected governments will always be questionable and democracy will not flourish. It can be argued that this is part of the process of maturity of institutions. It is hoped that the ECP will assert its autonomy and refuse to be influenced by vested interests. Whoever is responsible for this debacle, including the chief election commissioner, should be taken to task and removal of these flaws in the electoral lists ensured before the next general elections. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: In the eye of the West

Libya seems slated to become the next example of western imperialist intervention. With the Gaddafi regime tearing at the seams and the rebels gaining more control of the country — the east predominantly has been seized by them while the west is still, to a large degree, under the control of Gaddafi loyalists. It is because of the lack of clarity on the situation in Libya that western forces are antagonising over any future course the country might take, considering that it is the major supplier of crude oil in the region. Now it appears as if western forces are taking matters into their own hands as reports are betraying that Barack Obama has signed a secret deal authorising covert operations inside Libya. Hence the presence of CIA agents and boots on the ground in the country. Also, at the London Conference a few days ago, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton detailed the US’s intentions of arming Libyan rebels as a result of the relaxation of a United Nations Security Council resolution on arms embargo.

With covert operatives on the ground in Libya and plans to arm the rebels, one cannot help but think back to the US’s similar intervention in Afghanistan in the 1970s when it armed and funded the Afghan mujahideen who have now turned violently against not just the Afghanistan-Pakistan region but also against the US. It is well known that the CIA has some measure of military capability, exposing the fact that the West is looking to intervene in the Libyan revolution with a military intervention of its own. Rest assured that with boots on the ground, it is not just humanitarian assistance the US will be providing. Add to that the fact that one of Gaddafi’s closest allies, Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa, has defected to London — although some reports say he is there for negotiations — and we have a see-saw like stalemate situation in Libya that does not favour those elements who have a stake in the country, oil being that stake.

After the Cold War, the West has started throwing its weight around in international affairs to a worrying extent. From Afghanistan to Iraq, it has been toppling regimes that have not suited them. This western intervention in Libya on ‘humanitarian’ grounds is just not credible, especially when the country is a hub of crude oil. Syria and Iran could very easily be next if the West turns towards another colonialisation period in history. *

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\04\02\story_2-4-2011_pg3_1

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