LAHORE: Elections at any level can create a crisis, be it polls for National Assembly, provincial assemblies, local bodies, trade unions or even cooperative societies.
Residents of Military Accounts Cooperative Housing Society (MACHS) were seen protesting against rigging in elections held for the representative body of the society.
They alleged changes in voters’ lists, harassment and a biased election body, not much different from what one may hear at polls of any sort.
MACHS residents have blamed District Cooperatives Department for failing to carry out free and fair elections for the society.
A large number of society residents held a demonstration at the Lahore Press Club protesting against District Officer Cooperatives Ejaz Khan for favouring one of the two groups contesting elections.
The protestors told the media that the elections were to be held on July 7, 2013 but stopped by police due to law and order situation.
On election day, they said, the favourite group of Ejaz Khan tried to change voter lists as well as threatened residents, which had resulted in a tense situation and police was called.
Police, sensing the gravity of the situation, stopped the cooperatives department officials from conducting elections.
Farooq, a resident of the society said MACHS needed better leadership to improve civic amenities.
Most of the internal sewerage system as well as water supply lines of the society are broken and need immediate repairs. Similarly the road network is also in a pathetic condition, he said. Munaza, another resident of the society, said that for the past 28 years, the society elections were held peacefully under the supervision of officials of Military Accounts Department.
She said this was the first time when District Officer Cooperatives Ejaz Khan took hold of the society affairs and was conducting the elections.
Two groups, Military Friends Group and Residents AlFatah Group were taking part in the elections.
Military Friends Group comprised several previous members of the society’s elected body while Residents AlFatah Group was contesting elections for the first time.
Presidential candidate of Residents AlFatah Group Zaheeruddin Babar alleged that Ejaz Khan had called him and demanded Rs20 million for supporting him in the elections.
He said after his refusal Ejaz threatened him with dire consequences and started supporting the Military Friends Group.
Babar said the voter lists were changed and over 150 residents who were supporting him were declared defaulters on the pretext of not depositing maintenance fee.
He said some 600 other members who had not paid this fee were not declared defaulters.
In another gross violation, Ejaz Khan refused to accept 400 residents of E block of the society as voters.
He said Lahore High Court had already directed the department to register these members as voters.
Ejaz Khan is a grade 17 officer who was posted on a grade 18 seat, Babar said, alleging that Ejaz Khan was minting millions from private societies and no one has taken action against him. “We are preparing to go to court against him,” he said adding they had also got a stay order against the elections and biased role of Ejaz Khan.
Society residents protesting outside Lahore Press Club demanded the Chief Minister Punjab to take immediate action against Ejaz Khan and appoint some honest officer at this important seat.
When contacted Ejaz Khan said a committee has been constituted to carry out free and fair elections in the society. He said all allegations against him are baseless.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2013.