The last week’s bye-election in NA-75 Daska offers a peep into what’s going to happen in the next general election in the country unless all stakeholders agree to carry out genuine electoral reforms and ensure their implementation in letter and spirit. It also raises questions on the seriousness and capability of the Election Commission of Pakistan to fulfil its constitutional duty of holding free and fair elections. It throws into doubt the intentions of the sitting government about ensuring peaceful polling through impartial use of the administrative machinery.
The election in the Sialkot district of Punjab was marred by incidents of rigging and clashes between the voters and supporters of the rival parties — the PTI and the PML-N. The violence rose to an extent that it claimed the lives of two persons, besides injuries to several others. Some of the wrongdoings — like the disappearance of the election staff at nearly two dozen polling stations — were so unusual that the election commission had to concede that “it suspects rigging in NA-75 by-election” and thus the result remains withheld.
The violence and rigging in the Daska bye-election also proves that our political parties are least interested in playing a role for ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections. They are only interested in winning — by hook or by crook. While all contesting parties are to blame for this, the prime responsibility rests with the party in power.
Meanwhile, the results in six other bye-elections must be an eye-opener for Prime Minister Imran Khan as his PTI only managed to win one of them — in NA-45 Kurrum. The rest of the poll battles — in PB-20 Pishin, PS-43 Sanghar, PP-51 Gujranwala, PK-63 Nowshera and PS-88 Malir, Karachi — ended in the PTI’s defeat. The loss of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assembly seat from Nowshera, the home town of former chief minister Pervez Khattak, is a huge setback for the party which must send its leaders into some serious introspection. The PTI needs to seriously focus on controlling price hike and providing at least some relief to the people before it gets too late.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2021.