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ISLAMABAD: A former senator of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Farhatullah Babar, has claimed that upcoming elections have already been rigged and manipulated and what now remains is the formality of holding of polling on July 25.

The PPP leader was speaking at the launching of a poll guide titled, ‘Election Guide, All You Need to Know for Pakistan’s 2018 General Elections’.

The event was organised by an NGO, Democracy Rep­orting International (DRI), in collaboration with the United Nations Deve­lopment Prog­ramme, at a local hotel.

Mr Babar said that the poll day manipulation of bygone days had become far more difficult because of changes in the law, but these changes had quietly given way to pre-poll and post-poll rigging and manipulation.

“Seldom before the pre-poll process was so vitiated, so unfair and so grotesque,” the former PPP senator said.

“The invisible political engineers seem desperate for a fragmented and divided parliament that is easier to manipulate,” the PPP leader said, adding that “a silent coup has taken place, far softer and subtler than any previous coups”.

Says invisible political engineers seem desperate for a divided parliament

“As a result of that coup, there is a civilian government but without powers; there is media but without freedoms; there are election candidates without freedom to choose a political platform and there are voters but their right to vote seems to have already been exercised,” Mr Babar said.

Referring to election observers, he said that they were not banned but they were patently discouraged.

Speaking on the occasion, Democracy Reporting Inter­national representative Javed Malik said that the Guide was based on improvements made in the legal framework through the Elections Act, 2017, which was the outcome of long and multi-partisan efforts aimed at electoral reforms.

“The DRI hopes that the information provided by the Election Guide will help facilitate a useful discussion about the electoral process in Pakistan,” he said.

UNDP’s Chief Technical Adviser Darren Nance said: “We note positive initiatives the Election Commission of Pakistan has undertaken to bolster inclusion, access and transparency in the electoral process. We hope this Election Guide serves as a clearing house of information and repository for research on Pakistan’s electoral process.”

The Guide consistently refers to both international standards and the country’s regulatory framework for all phases of the electoral cycle.

Participants of the ceremony were informed that the Guide also provided sources of information to equip all people with detailed knowledge about different aspects of the electoral process in Pakistan. Information on caretaker governments, electoral rolls, delimitation, electoral disputes resolution, and election security has also been provided in the Guide.

The Guide notes the Election Commission of Pakistan’s endeavours to ensure maximum participation of marginalised groups such as women, minorities and people with disabilities in the electoral process.

The important role of journalists has also been mentioned in the booklet with tips for media reporting and issues for consideration while covering the 2018 general elections in the country.

The Guide, in both English and Urdu, is supplemented with a mobile application: ‘Election Guide 2018’.

Published in Dawn, July 06th, 2018