Monday, June 1, 2015

Daily Times Editorial June 2, 2015

‘Rigging’ again The ‘rigging’ bogey we don’t seem to be able to put to rest. Ironically, the very people who helped put this bogey centre-stage in the first place seem now to have been hoist by their own petard. It was the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) that held the country in thrall for months with its sweeping denunciations of alleged rigging in the 2013 general elections. Today, the party finds itself in the unaccustomed and uncomfortable position of being on the receiving end of accusations of massive rigging in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Local Government (LG) elections. The PTI’s rival parties in KP, the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Jamiat-i-Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) have trotted out this accusation of massive rigging by the PTI government. These two parties have refused to accept the results of these LG elections. ANP’s chief Asfandyar Wali has been particularly severe in his criticism of the PTI for its role in what he alleges is a rigged LG election. He even ascribes the slow pace at which the counting of votes and the announcement of the results is proceeding as betraying the mala fide intent of the PTI. Asfandyar pointed out that when the PTI flung around its accusations of rigging (particularly in Punjab) in the 2013 general elections, it held the caretaker governments and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) responsible. But in KP, the PTI has shifted the entire blame onto the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), even to the extent of pointing fingers at the ECP for its failure to prevent violence on polling day that resulted in deaths and injuries, having, according to Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak, surrendered control of the police and law enforcement agencies to the ECP. Asfandyar also revealed that the PTI’s coalition partner in the KP government, the Jamaat-i-Islami, had conceded that there had been rigging. PTI chief Imran Khan has responded to the flurry of rigging allegations with a pledge to probe all reports of rigging and/or malpractices. Imran Khan called on the Chief Election Commissioner to form tribunals, initiate inquiries and pass verdicts within a month, a target that seems impossible given the track record of the ECP in addressing such issues. Another unfortunate aspect of these LG polls in KP has been the violence attending the voting day, as well as continuing clashes between rivals to date. The passions let loose by the recourse to the electorate to choose its grassroots representatives do not seem to have died down and have led to further deaths even after the election day hustle and bustle is over. It is a sad comment on the ability of the ECP to manage security and law and order, the cop out on this score by the PTI chief minister notwithstanding. Pakistan’s democracy still has some way to go before people learn to control their tempers and rely only on the right to defeat rivals through the peaceful exercise of the electorate’s franchise and not through the elimination of those arrayed against them. The violence on polling day resulted in the death of a PTI worker in Nowshera while a victory procession was passing before former ANP information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain’s house. There are several reported versions of how the death came about, ranging from an ANP-PTI workers’ clash to the aerial firing by the triumphant PTI workers being responsible. Whether it was the result of a clash or an unfortunate and tragic accident, what is inexplicable is that an FIR was registered by the dead man’s father naming Mian Iftikhar as responsible for ordering his guards to open fire on the procession and on the basis of that, the latter was arrested, brought in handcuffs to court, and remanded to police custody. Mian Iftikhar may be many things, but he is not a man of violence or someone about to take flight in the face of adversity. It may be recalled that even when his son was killed by terrorists, he continued to perform his duties as information minister without fear. Hardly the sort of man requiring the restraint of handcuffs that are normally used in cases where the accused is suspected of being prone to running away. Apart from underlining once again how our crime registration system is open to abuse and too quick to arrest someone on mere hearsay, it is a disrespect to a man deserving far better treatment.

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