111 510 510 libonline@riphah.edu.pk Contact

The saga of elections

Elections are just round the corner. The famous English proverb says that “There is many a slip between the cup and the lip” but in this case all slippery obstacles have been removed and the elections fixed for 8th February. The most important part of the elections are the finances required for this massive exercise across the nation and a substantial amount of this already rests with the Election Commission of Pakistan. This might be one of the most talked-about elections in our history but they are not the only one. Pakistan has a long history of elections and each had its controversies but surprisingly the best, most impartial and fair elections, as regarded by most critics, have been the ones in 1970 which unfortunately also led to the breakup of the country, bringing Bangladesh into existence.

A quick glance at the history of elections in Pakistan will reveal that the first general elections in Pakistan were held after 22 years of its coming into existence. These elections in 1970 were followed by 9 more elections till 2018. The elections in 1977 were rejected by the opposition, leading to a massive protest movement which resulted in martial law in the country. In other elections that followed, the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) formed the government 3 times as did the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) while the PML-Q (Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid) once in 2002 and PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) once in 2018.

As we approach the polling day it is evident that these will be dramatically different elections than the ones this nation has experienced so far. Social media has changed the entire landscape even though in some localities the local newspaper familiar to the local population still has a certain advantage. I remember, in the last elections my friend was contesting from one of the poorer localities in the city and found out that a large percentage of voters get their news from a local newspaper. This was one newspaper he had not heard of and he had to run from pillar to post to get connected to the concerned reporters. Social media also played an important role at that time but not as significant as expected this time around.

Over the years election contests have become extremely bitter and personal attacks have replaced problems and solutions offered by different parties. This has happened gradually over the years and a major factor is lack of political training that was once imparted through elections of students unions in the educational institutions of the country. The present generation has no idea what a great impact these elections had on the political psyche of the young and the overall conduct of politicians in the country. Elections to students unions were held on a fixed date in all participating institutions and the city bustled with activity. Young boys and girls displaying their badges adorned with the names and pictures of their candidates were seen canvassing spiritedly.

In St. Patrick’s College where I studied and also contested elections it was not a time for confrontation but of festivity and creativity. Boys and girls would create innovative and colorful posters for their candidates and college administration would arrange speaking engagements where candidates could offer their vision of how the student union should operate and provide services to the students. Votes were sought to fix the problems of students and not to fix opponents. When I won the elections for the post of Vice President my opponent was the first to come over and shake my hand and congratulate. It was not uncommon to select students as heads of different committees based on their abilities even though during election days they may have opposed you. It was indeed sound training for grooming future leaders of the country but all that was trashed after banning the student unions because some ruler feared they might jeopardize his rule. Now that these nurseries for future politicians are closed so are the doors to training our youth to groom them into sensible political leaders to conduct the affairs of the state and contest elections in a responsible manner.

It is not too far to election date but I have yet to see the manifesto of any party about their perceived problems that plague the nation and how they intend to address them. I will keep my fingers crossed and wait for that miracle.

Zia Ul Islam Zuberi, "The saga of elections," Business recorder. 2023-12-23.
Keywords: Political sciences , Election commission , General elections , Martial law , Social media , Pakistan , Bangladesh , PML-N , PTI , PPP

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *