IF ONLY RAHUL GANDHI had said it, or even a Manish Tiwari, all hell would have broken loose, and Amit Shah would have declared on the floor of the Rajya Sabha that the man advocating the cause of the Pakistan Army and the Pakistan Election Commission was a certified member of the Tukde-Tukde Gang.
But this was India's former Chief Election Commissioner, SY Quraishi. He has emerged as a prominent voice in the subcontinent giving a certificate of fairness to the election process in Pakistan that threw up Imran Khan as the chosen one.
There is only one minor problem: Most of the prestigious media houses in Pakistan do not agree with Mr Quraishi. Some of the most independent journalists in Pakistan have strong reservations about the fairness of elections. Pakistan's own Human Rights Commission has expressed
strong views, and now, even the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) of Pakistan has strongly protested against making it look like a culprit in the dirty game of rigging.
NADRA is the creator of the newly-developed state-of-the-art Result Transmission System (RTS), the mobile app which kept in loop the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the offices of the returning officers (ROs) and the state-run Pakistan Television about the results as the counting process was on.
Now, the ECP has said the RTS suffered a breakdown. NADRA has come up with logs to show that RTS was deliberately shut down even when it was "fully functional”.
Pakistan's election process was already under a cloud. Many screamed about how candidates were threatened. The shadow of the army was everywhere, including inside the polling stations as armed to the teeth soldiers stood next to the ballot boxes. Polling agents were pushed out during counting process, and a lot happened that was duly taken note of by some of the most prestigious media.
Quraishi finds the Pakistan election process free and fair. Most prestigious media houses in Pakistan do not. Even the Human Rights Commission does not.
As the counting was being delayed and word went around about how the real rigging exercise was proceeding, the ECP Secretary, Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad, appeared on TV screens well after midnight just to inform the nation that the RTS had "collapsed” and that the traditional method of manually tabulating the results will be resorted to.
Now, investigations have revealed that presiding officers were instructed to stop using RTS though it had never crashed. Behind the scene, top officials of NADRA protested with the ECP for this "wrong announcement” since the RTS was "fully functional.”
Everyone and his uncle knows in Pakistan how the election was rigged, except for our very own SY Quraishi who was in Pakistan for 12 days to study exactly that — if the poll process was free and fair. Quraishi was a member of the Commonwealth Election Observers Group in Pakistan and claims to have "met delegations from the leading political parties, civil society and the media to understand the pre-electoral environment, which was reported to point to a not-too-fair election."
He was apparently made aware of the talk about "forcing of certain party leaders to return their tickets, muzzling of the media, and misuse of the army and judiciary in favour of a particular party."
SY Quraishi's article: Why didn't he see what no one else missed?
Now, Quraishi, in an article
in the Indian Express, has given the certificate of fairness to the Pakistan Election Commission and the yet-to-be-formed government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party of Imran Khan. Both, the ECP and the PTI, have been dying to get such a certificate and it comes from no one else but the man who headed the Election Commission of India, a body that the Pakistanis look upon as an ideal way of ensuring fairness.
"We found the electoral system quite robust, with a substantially reformed legal framework consisting of the Constitution of Pakistan, the Elections Act, 2017 and Election Rules, 2017, which has led to a greater autonomy of the ECP, including financial autonomy, power to make rules and punish for contempt, and to deregister or delist an existing political party," Quraishi wrote.
Ironically, his article appears on the same day on which almost all newspapers and television channels in Pakistan have carried the claims of the NADRA that essentially say how the ECP was telling lies.
Everyone and his uncle knows in Pakistan how the election was rigged, except for our very own SY Quraishi who was in Pakistan for 12 days to study exactly that.
If this is some kind of a queer exercise to improve the fractured ties between New Delhi and Islamabad, then the agencies have done a very shoddy job. Condoning open rigging is bad diplomacy. A former head of a body that has earned its reputation with some remarkable work now giving certificates of honesty to a process that is widely considered flawed and rigged hardly serves the purpose to bolster reputation of either side.
Quraishi is happy that NADRA launched special campaigns to enroll women voters. He ignores the fact that even his certified-as-honest ECP now finds it tough to defend the polls in two constituencies of NA-10 (Shangla) and NA-48 (North Waziristan) since women voters were less than even 10 per cent of the total polled votes. The poll in these
two seats is now set to be void.
Why is Quraishi silent about the role of the "agriculture department” in Pakistan elections? Just google to see what this department was doing, or what was being done in the name of this department in the polls.
(A social media video of Rana Iqbal Siraj, a candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League of former premier Nawaz Sharif, went viral. He complained in the video that intelligence officials pressured him to withdraw his candidacy and contest the election in an independent capacity. Nawaz Sharif, then in London, named "ISI operatives” as the culprits. Later, Rana Iqbal withdrew his statement and said he had suddenly recalled that the "men who slapped and harassed me were from the agriculture department.” Since then, everyone knows this proactive role of the "agriculture department" in Imran Khan's victory.)
Read Quraishi on the ECP: "The ECP also admitted the failure of the Result Transmission System because it had not been pilot tested adequately."
Even the ECP is no more saying that. Rather, the NADRA is directly accusing the ECP of shutting down RTS to rig the polls. If only a Congress leader had defended the ECP, the Modi-Shah team would have gotten a campaign slogan in which the friends of ECP would have been painted as members of the Tukde Tukde Gang.
The innocence of Mr Quraishi is touching: "The foreign minister, whom we met, attributed (the RTS crash), in a lighter vein, to the failure of the British technology on which the app was based." How easy it is to stay blind! All you have to do is to stop reading anything that the best of Pakistani journalistic platforms have to say.
Quraishi is happy that the ECP did not allow the registration of certain militant entities to contest elections, but then they just changed their name and set up a new party and they were promptly registered!
Quraishi is happy that "religious parties with extremist connections were totally routed" and that "Tehreek-e-Labbaik managed to get only two seats in Karachi whereas the Allah-o-Akbar party drew a blank." What he ignores is that in many seats, these militant parties walked away with enough traditional votes of the PML(N) to ensure the victory of Imran Khan's candidates.
Quraishi's Commonwealth group "commended the ECP for a laudable job" but now Pakistan's democratic institutions are finding it difficult to issue such a certificate.
We may not disagree that the General Election 2018 is "an important milestone in strengthening democracy in Pakistan," but it is certainly difficult to hand out not just a clean chit but a commendation medal to the Election Commission of Pakistan and to the authorities there for a free and fair democratic joust.
Both, the ECP and the PTI, have been dying to get such a certificate and it comes from no one else but the man who headed the Election Commission of India.
Not a single Indian journalist was permitted to cover the elections, but Mr Quraishi was. That certainly does not mean he knows better. Now that the entire story is out about why exactly at 11:47pm on the first night of the counting, the presiding officers and the ROs were informed over the phone through the provincial election commissioners that they should stop using the RTS, Quraishi does not have a leg to stand on.
Pakistan's political parties, including the PPP and the PML-N, have agreed in principle to jointly demand the formation of a parliamentary commission to probe poll rigging charges. It does not behove a senior former Indian official to pronounce the verdict in favour of the ruling party.
Exactly on the day Quraishi's article appeared in the Indian Express, this is what the Dawn newspaper wrote in its editorial
: "The ECP appears more interested in lashing out at critics of its disastrous performance after the close of polling hours on July 25 than investigating the shambolic vote counting and results transmission processes."
The leading Pakistan newspaper that carries must prestige is calling the performance of the ECP as "disastrous." Quraishi finds that the ECP did a "laudable job."
The Dawn even called out the ECP for its rough language and said, "The ECP ought to be careful in the language it uses about political parties and election candidates." It further added that it was "the ECP itself that is disrespecting the democratic process."
SY Quraishi in his article published on August 2 says the ECP has implemented "its mandate for holding transparent elections on schedule."
Now, read the Dawn editorial of August 2: "As the dust settles from what remains a controversial election — perhaps the most controversial of the three general elections since 2008 — there are many unanswered questions."
It would have been better if Quraishi had raised questions about the alleged unlawful exclusion of some polling agents from polling stations in various parts of the country. He should have brought out the failure of the Presiding Officers in numerous polling stations to issue Form 45 in a timely manner or the failure of the ECP to distribute Form 45, which lists the votes won by each candidate at the polling-station level, in adequate numbers to the POs. And he should have questioned the alleged collapse of the electronic Results Transmission System after the close of polling hours.
Ironically, Quraishi’s article appears on the same day on which almost all newspapers and television channels in Pakistan carried the claims of the Nadra about how the ECP was telling lies.
The real story is still shrouded in mystery. Quraishi sees it all so clearly and issues certificates. Meanwhile, even the DC of Quetta will find it hard to believe Quraishi, because he has just found that one of the winners was not even a citizen of Pakistan.
The election of Ahmed Ali Kohzad
in PB-26 (Quetta-III) has been set aside. The Balochistan High Court (BHC) has been informed about it. A committee has been formed to probe. Kohzad can now hire Quraishi as his lawyer.
Of course, it will matter little to Quraishi that the SAFMA office in Lahore has been sealed on specious grounds. Mr Quraishi may have missed this editorial comment
in Dawn and similar comments in other
leading media platforms: "It is no secret that a few SAFMA officials have been vocal in raising their concerns over this growing pressure on major media outlets to toe a particular line and they have questioned the fairness of the July elections."
Now, the SAFMA office stands sealed. Inside are some SAFMA members, and a pet dog. Mr Quraishi has already won a great deal of goodwill with the proponents of Naya Pakistan. He might want to use it to extricate the pet dog from the sealed SAFMA office. That may be his best contribution to the cause of democracy in Pakistan, at least from a canine point of view.
For an equine point of view of Pakistani democracy, click here
. By all accounts, an Equus asinus would have better credentials to write about the electoral process.
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