Being well into my nineties, I have witnessed all the elections that have been held in Pakistan since the independence. Never have I witnessed an election where the defeated party or individual would concede in a graceful manner. In a country like Pakistan where literacy levels are low, resources are limited, and personal ethical values are far from perfect, irregularities are guaranteed to happen.
Many believe that the elections held in December 1970 were fair, but the reality is rather different. I recall that I traveled to my village to cast my vote. To my surprise, the presiding officer at that polling station told me that my vote had already been cast. I was not alone. Such incidents have been quite common and often lead to mudding the transparency of the electoral process. We as a nation become cynical of the electoral process and are therefore unwilling to accept defeat. It has now become our national character to reject defeat and cry foul play if we don’t win. Moreover, this character flaw has crept into our attitude toward defeat in other domains as well, such as sports. If Pakistan wins a cricket match it is celebrated with great jubilation. However, if a match is lost, it is dubbed as some kind of foul play, ranging from a grand conspiracy against Pakistan to players selling themselves for money. Therefore, I am afraid the EVMs that our government is trying to push for so vehemently would not make any difference in improving the trust of the people. Given that all the opposition parties have rejected the idea and that such machines have had their problems around the world, it might further erode whatever trust people have in the elections.
The political leadership of the country must first change their attitudes and set examples of conceding defeat with grace. Once people see that wins and losses are a logical outcome of the process, they will slowly regain trust in the system.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2021.