Good electoral precedent

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The ECP took one of its strongest actions ever against political violence, sending a K-P minister packing for inciting violence during the recent local government elections in Bannu district. Polling had to be cancelled and rescheduled due to the violence. K-P Transport Minister Shah Muhammad Khan has been disqualified for five years. His son, who was contesting the local elections in Bannu’s Baka Khel tehsil, was also disqualified. The father and son were found to be involved in snatching polling material and abducting polling staff. The ECP also directed the provincial election commissioner to file criminal complaints against the minister and his son.

Incidentally, in December 2021, K-P Opposition Leader Akram Durrani, who is also from Bannu, had claimed that Shah Muhammad and his son, along with their men, had also shot at the police during the violence, and that despite complaints to the local deputy commissioner and district police officer, no action was being taken against them. A case registered earlier was against “unidentified persons” rather than the very identifiable public figure and his kin. The ECP investigation also saw a telling revelation by the district police officer, who said he did not go to the area after receiving reports of violence because it was “dangerous” and he lacked sufficient security.

Again, the region’s top cop, who is responsible for public safety and has his own security detail, refused to do his job because he was more concerned with his own safety. The government should take action to ensure his safety by permanently sending him home. It will also be interesting to see how the local police now proceed with further criminal investigations or charges relating to those actions. After all, kidnapping, armed robbery and shooting at the police are not minor crimes. We must also praise the ECP for setting a good precedent. The electoral watchdog must show zero tolerance for violence if we are to ever have a peaceful and transparent electoral process where people are not discouraged from voting due to fear of physical harm.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2022.

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