Historically the phrase ‘Let the games begin’ is an allusion to the words used by the ancient Greeks to start the Olympic Games. The millennia since has seen something of a shift in the meaning, and today it has a more sarcastic ring to it, an allusion to deception and double-cross, dishonesty and duplicity. It may appropriately be applied to the electoral process that is now in full swing. The gloves are off, the start line crossed and whatever passed for truth and honesty has been defenestrated.
First out of the starting blocks is the government of Balochistan that wants the elections postponed for a month, citing the monsoon season, absent voters and insufficient time for the various agencies tasked with running the elections being unable to get their ducks in a row before the due date. Then there is the vexed matter of delimitation, the setting of boundaries for constituencies which will be defined by the results of the recent census — except that those results are not available in a final format. Pas de probleme. The Elections Act of 2017 directs that the Election Commission of Pakistan shall delimit constituencies after every census, and with elections to be held within 60 days of the dissolution of the government and not everybody in the political kitchen happy with the outcomes of those delimitations rocks are appearing on the track, tripping over for the purpose. Delimitations in six districts are already declared void.
Add to all of the above the bureaucracy attempting to finagle the appointment of its blue-eyed boys for prime foreign posts — a move headed off by outgoing Prime Minister Abbasi — and the Opposition parties creating confusion and not a little mayhem over the appointment of a new chief minister for Punjab — and the track is already littered with objects indicative of anything but a free and fair election ahead. We can but hope that the race, dirty as it will be, nonetheless gets run in a timely manner. There will be winners and losers but in the end a new civilian(ish) government, which in itself few would have thought a possibility a decade ago.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2018.
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