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Strengthening poll monitoring

28 36 9

THE caretaker government’s expression of resolve to ensure the holding of free and fair elections can only be welcomed and one hopes the requisites of a genuine and democratic election are not being taken for granted.

The need for elections to be democratic is generally not fully appreciated. Elections are sometimes claimed to be free and fair even under totalitarian regimes. In the subcontinent, elections held on a limited suffrage were claimed to be free and fair by alien rulers and elections held in Pakistan under separate electorates also were supposed to be free and fair. Further, in a country where feudal and patriarchal aberrations hold sway and discrimination on grounds of belief and social status is widespread, the obstacles to democratically free and fair elections are almost insurmountable.

These constraints lie largely outside the caretaker regime’s jurisdiction but its duty to limit the adverse effects of the socioeconomic, faith-related and gender-based barriers to free voting cannot be gainsaid. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has a clear mandate to proceed against anyone who calls upon voters to follow its religious edicts or prevents women from voting, but it will need the administration’s firm backing to be able to protect the genuineness of elections.

These traditional problems apart, the government and the ECP both should be aware of the special challenges the coming general election poses. Political polarisation in the country, particularly in Punjab, is at its peak, and large-scale attempts to influence the poll outcome cannot........

© Dawn