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Controlling Election Rigging in Pakistan

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Tahir Maqsood Chheena

Election rigging is the practice of using illegal or unethical methods to influence the outcome of an election in favour of a particular candidate or party. Election rigging can take various forms, such as:

Pre-poll rigging: This involves manipulating the electoral process before the actual voting day, such as by disqualifying or intimidating opposition candidates, restricting their access to media and campaign resources, gerrymandering electoral boundaries, manipulating voter registration, and influencing public opinion through propaganda and misinformation.

Ballot rigging: This involves tampering with the voting process on the polling day, such as by stuffing ballot boxes, altering or destroying ballots, miscounting or falsifying votes, bribing or coercing voters, preventing or obstructing voters from casting their ballots, and disrupting or sabotaging the polling stations.

Post-poll rigging: This involves interfering with the electoral process after the voting day, such as by delaying or obstructing the transmission and announcement of results, challenging or rejecting the results, instigating violence or unrest, and influencing the formation of the government.

Election rigging can undermine the legitimacy and credibility of the electoral system and erode the trust and confidence of the voters and the international community. Election rigging can also violate the democratic rights and freedoms of the people and hamper the development and stability of the country.

In a parliamentary system of governance, such as in Pakistan, election rigging can have significant implications for the composition and functioning of the parliament, which is the supreme legislative body of the country. The parliament consists of elected representatives of the people, who form the government and the opposition and enact laws and policies for the country. The parliament also holds the executive accountable and oversees the performance of the government. Therefore, election rigging can affect the quality and effectiveness of the parliament and the representation and participation of the people in the democratic process. Therefore, multiple measures are required to counter the pre-poll, ballot, and post-poll rigging.

Accordingly, it is important to strengthen the independence and impartiality of the election commission, which is responsible for conducting and supervising the elections, and ensure that it has adequate resources and authority to perform its duties—furthermore, enhancing the transparency and accountability of the electoral process, by allowing the observation and monitoring of the elections by domestic and international groups, and by providing timely and accurate information and data to the public and the media is crucial.

It is also essential to improve the legal and institutional framework of the elections by reviewing and reforming the electoral laws and regulations and establishing effective mechanisms for resolving electoral disputes and complaints. Then, it is critically significant to Promote the participation and education of the voters by increasing their awareness and understanding of the electoral system and their rights and responsibilities, encouraging them to exercise their vote freely and fairly and fostering cooperation and dialogue among the political parties and candidates, by creating a conducive and peaceful environment for the electoral campaign, and by respecting the code of conduct and the democratic norms and values is also equally vital.

With particular reference to Pakistan, election rigging has been a recurrent and contentious issue in its political history, as many of its elections have been marred by allegations and controversies of electoral malpractices and manipulation. Some of the factors that have contributed to the problem of election rigging in Pakistan include the role and influence of the bureaucratic establishment, which has often intervened in the political affairs of the country and has been accused of supporting or undermining certain political parties and candidates, and of engineering the electoral outcomes in its favour. Furthermore, the weakness and politicization of the election commission, which has often lacked the capacity and credibility to conduct and oversee the elections in a free and fair manner and has faced interference and pressure from the executive and other powerful actors, has been a serious concern.

Furthermore, the lack of transparency and accountability in the electoral process, which has often suffered from irregularities and discrepancies in voter registration, ballot printing, vote counting, and the result announcement, and has faced challenges and disputes from the aggrieved parties and candidates has been the fundamental hurdle in holding free and transparent elections. The low level of participation and education of the voters, who have often been unaware or indifferent to the electoral system and their democratic rights and have been vulnerable to the influence and inducement of money, patronage, religion, and ethnicity, has been a matter of concern. Furthermore, one of the main issues is also the absence of cooperation and dialogue among the political parties and candidates, who have often engaged in negative and violent electoral campaigns and have refused to accept or respect the electoral results and the mandate of the people.

Therefore, the following steps are required to be taken to address these challenges and to improve the quality and credibility of the elections in Pakistan. There is a need to reduce the role and influence of the bureaucratic establishment in the country’s political affairs and ensure civilian supremacy and oversight of the electoral process and the separation of powers and functions among the state institutions. It is also vital to empowering and reforming the election commission and enhancing its independence and impartiality, and its resources and authority, to conduct and supervise the elections in a free and fair manner and to resolve the electoral disputes and complaints in a timely and effective manner. Then, increasing the transparency and accountability of the electoral process by allowing the observation and monitoring of the elections by domestic and international groups, by providing timely and accurate information and data to the public and the media, and by adopting modern and reliable technologies and methods for the electoral process is vital.

Raising the participation and education of the voters by increasing their awareness and understanding of the electoral system and their rights and responsibilities, encouraging them to exercise their vote freely and fairly, and protecting them from any intimidation or coercion is crucial. Furthermore, there is a need to encourage cooperation and dialogue among the political parties and candidates by creating a conducive and peaceful environment for the electoral campaign, and by respecting the code of conduct and the democratic norms and values, and by accepting and respecting the electoral results and the mandate of the people.

Lastly, the people must vote in numbers. The bigger turnout is the best response to planned rigging of any form. Furthermore, people should also be aware of voting rights and all the processes of voting. They may visit the Election Commission of Pakistan website and understand all the documents, especially those on the political parties, to enhance their capacity. 

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