As per Wikipedia records Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim the Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan is 85 years old. A man known for his integrity, a spotless record and credentials that make him stand out as a brilliant and unanimously acclaimed choice for the office he holds today.
Arguably the same can be said about the team that he assembled together to form the Election Commission of Pakistan that presided over the 2013 Elections in Pakistan.
This team promised and boasted to all and sundry that fool proof measures would be taken to ensure that a free and fair election takes place. In pre-election press conferences they also touted the use of technology and far reaching oversight to curtail the very thought of rigging. The voting public of Pakistan believed them, largely owing to their unblemished personal track records.
The ECP was further empowered with all means necessary at their disposal, be it the army, the rangers, local police or all of the above as required to protect the voters and deliver a transparent and fair election result.
As darkness fell on the evening of Election Day, May 11th 2013 Mr. Ibrahim and his team beaming with pride declared that by and large they had achieved their goals, delivered on their promises, a fair bit of self-congratulatory back patting ensued for a job well done.
This is where this fairytale takes a left turn.
This is also the same point in time where brave voters and observers started posting mobile videos on social media of massive voter fraud across the country.
In one grainy video several innocent looking aunties (for lack of a better description) are seen stuffing ballots to their hearts content and even playfully admonishing the video taking observer to sit quietly and watch the mandate stealing robbery in action.
Similar videos of brazen fraud being committed by poll workers, supervisors and even law enforcement officials have since flooded the internet.
Every single night these videos are played back to audiences on Pakistani media screens which lead us to this obvious question. Are the members of the Election Commission of Pakistan totally out of touch with reality? Are they living in a fantasyland where as the saying goes ‘All is well’ and this self-serving assurance is repeated by ECP amongst themselves and then to the public at press conferences?
Mr Ishtiak Ahmed the Secretary of the ECP has stated that the election was mostly flawless and has termed allegations of rigging as baseless. He further points to the clean bill of health issued by International observers from the European Union, as if they were the validating overlords of the Pakistani elections, he further points to the congratulatory messages received by the victors by the likes of President Obama and other world leaders as proof of validity of the election results.
Mr. Ishtiak and his cohorts at the ECP can rest assured that if the aforementioned videos were circulating after elections in any of the countries of origin of the observing team members, or the congratulating western world leaders, the entire election proceedings in their respective countries would have come to a grinding halt. Not only would there be recounting, there would be massive lawsuits, debarments, jail terms and needless to say heads would roll. Can the same be expected in Pakistan?
The ECP is living in a fantasyland where they are satisfying a delusional and self-fulfilling prophecy of delivering a fair election, entirely oblivious to the mass voter rigging evidence that has surfaced. And by the way the video evidence recorded is probably a small sliver of what transpired in polling stations across Pakistan on May 11th?
So when the protesting youth and women on the streets in Karachi, Lahore and elsewhere legitimately ask about what happened to their vote? They face the ridicule of opposing political parties and of ECP as well.
If you lose you say its rigging, if you win you call it your right. My dear Pakistani's please start accepting other's mandates.— Fakhr U. G. Ebrahim (@u_fakhr) May 16, 2013
Instead the commission would be better off in evaluating its own dismal performance. Democracy has suffered a blow under their watch as many an enthusiastic voter, euphoric about the possibility of change through the ballot, is now dejected and unsure about whether their vote even counted.
Sadly this is a lost opportunity of what could have been an exemplary election with a record turnout. The ineptitude and unpreparedness of the ECP has turned that dream into a nightmare.
"If anyone has proof of rigging, must submit with ECP, without discrediting this National Institution any further, or action will be taken"— Fakhr U. G. Ebrahim (@u_fakhr) May 16, 2013
They relied too heavily and perhaps solely on their credentials and under delivered on their own promises, and are now forced to use the crutch of history to declare that this was by far the most transparent election in Pakistan, even if true, this statement does not say much. The expectations were much higher, and the ECP deliberately built them up with their statements along the way, only to let the nation down in the final and decisive lap.
This is now spilt milk for the large part, for even if recounting in certain constituencies changes a few results it will be little consolation, as the disillusioned voter is left wondering about what the result could have been had the ECP diligently delivered on its promises?