Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, after being sworn in as the new Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), has made it quite clear that he has a one-point agenda. “We only have a one-point agenda and that is public justice through free, fair, transparent and impartial elections so that no one could ever point a finger at the impartiality of the election commission and all employees of the election commission should work to achieve that goal”, said the CEC. This is great news for the future of democracy in Pakistan. After nine years of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s military dictatorship, democracy finally made its way back in our polity in 2008 after a long and hard struggle. There may be some anti-democratic forces still vying for power but the people of Pakistan have been quite vocal in their desire for the continuation of the democratic process.
History demonstrates quite convincingly that even the worst democracy is certainly better than the best military dictatorship. Thus, the new CEC’s promise to give a democratic Pakistan to the new generation is indeed commendable. In any civilised state, free and fair polls are a given but in Pakistan, which has been under direct military rule for more than three decades, it is a rarity. As Justice Ebrahim commented, we have only had three relatively free and fair elections in our history — in 1971, 1988 and 2008. The establishment’s role in undermining the electoral process in many an election is no longer a secret. From distributing ‘secret funds’ to political parties of its choice to employing pressure tactics, our establishment has indulged in all sorts of rigging in order to influence election results.
The right to vote is an integral part of a just and democratic society. Nobody should be allowed to either take away that right or to let it go to waste. It is hoped that under Justice Ebrahim’s able command, the election commission would now be able to freely exercise its power and would not allow any foul play during the next general elections. The media must also play its role as a watchdog and be more vigilant during the polls. The people of Pakistan deserve to choose their leadership in a free and transparent manner.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2012.