MUCH like justice that must be seen to be done, an election must be seen as being free, fair and transparent for an electorate to believe that their will has been correctly expressed. The ECP is mandated to ensure that elections in the country meet those requirements. The upcoming elections on July 20 to the KP Assembly in the newly merged tribal districts are its next major task, not an easy one considering the area’s turbulent history. Security is of course a major concern but the ECP’s approach to it may have an adverse effect on the quality of the exercise. According to a notification by the election regulator, security personnel drawn from the military and civil armed forces are to be deployed inside and outside each polling station. Several political parties have objected to the prospect of forces’ personnel being inside the polling stations, voicing misgivings about the effect of such a huge security presence on the voters.
This election will be an important milestone in erstwhile Fata’s entry into the democratic fold. Any impression of voter intimidation in an area whose inhabitants have suffered much and whose expectations have been raised by the state’s promises of development, will only add to the feelings of discontent. Security concerns are valid but they must be balanced against the equally important requirement that voters be able to cast their ballot in a space free of any semblance of the state’s coercive power. The ECP should repose trust in the polling agents that they are capable of following their code of conduct and maintaining discipline inside the stations. The Election Act 2017 empowers the ECP to take “appropriate” security measures to ensure the smooth conduct of the polls; at the same time, elections are the linchpin of a democracy and the ECP must guarantee civilian ownership of the exercise. Proper security arrangements outside and in the vicinity of polling stations should suffice to allay fears of the process being disrupted for any reason.
Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2019