The image of the PPP candidate for PS-53 in Tando Mohammad Khan soundly slapping a polling officer as she visited a polling station in her constituency, shook everyone who saw the pictures captured on film. Many recoiled with the Assistant Presiding Officer Shagufta Memon, as PPP candidate Waheeda Shah Bukhari’s hand hit her full across the face. The follow-up has not been very convincing either. At a press conference held at the home of Ms Bukhari — who won her seat to the Sindh Assembly through the by-poll — Ms Memon has stated the whole incident was the result of a “misunderstanding” and that the angry candidate had taken her for an agent of her rival, Mir Mushtaque Ali Talpur.
This is absurd because if one goes by the footage that has been aired, it seems as if the slap was more or less unprovoked. Furthermore, even it was a ‘misunderstanding’, as has been now claimed, it does not even remotely qualify as appropriate behaviour, especially of a candidate for a provincial parliament. People who contest elections to become public representatives — and as such models for their communities — should not be using violence at polling stations, or their clout to physically assault polling officers. In this case, of course, the ‘beating’ was quite literal in nature. One doesn’t really need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the polling official who was slapped is being made to come out with this ridiculous ‘misunderstanding’ ruse. In any case, the candidate, who apparently won the election, has not bothered to explain why she chose to slap anyone at all. In this age of television and with a media that seems to have a hawk eye on such things, it is next to impossible to distort facts.
The new, permanent Election Commission of Pakistan has said it is looking into the incident. The case for it is clear. Ms Bukhari should be disqualified since quite clearly the grounds for doing so are for everyone to see. This will send a signal to all candidates for public office that they cannot get away with such shameful acts.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2012.