Unfair delivery

Published December 23, 2023

DEEMING the party’s internal polls unlawful, the ECP has dealt another blow to the PTI by stripping the latter of its electoral symbol. With its supporters no longer able to vote for the ‘bat’, the PTI is looking to challenge the decision in court.

It is a controversial move by the electoral body, which has, ironically, not taken a similar position against other major parties that are hardly known as beacons of internal democracy.

However, this is not the first time a political party in Pakistan has been deprived of its poll symbol. One of the most defining memories is of the PPP being forced to give up the ‘sword’ during the 1988 elections, although its replacement, the ‘arrow’, still drew enough voters to enable the party to come to power. The difference is that the PTI cannot contest under any symbol, with its politicians having to run as independent candidates.

Many see the ECP’s decision as part of the ongoing crackdown against the PTI. From incarcerations, to ‘disappearances’ and press conferences announcing departures from the parties, there has been no attempt by the state apparatus to disguise its antipathy.

Another effort to make the electoral field as uneven as possible is evident in the state’s use of brute force to keep potential PTI candidates out of the contest at the stage of filing nomination papers.

Ever since the announcement of the election schedule, not a day has gone by without reports of police across Punjab forcibly breaking into homes of prospective PTI candidates, harassing their families, damaging their property, and detaining them to stop them from filing nomination papers.

There have also been allegations about election officials refusing to receive their papers. On Thursday, police went a step further when they forcibly entered the home of this paper’s correspondent in Mianwali for reporting on these incidents — without any regard for the law and privacy.

Yet the ECP, which is responsible for ensuring a transparent, free and fair poll process, has not been too bothered by these happenings. With the deadline for filing nominations extended, following appeals from multiple political parties, it remains to be seen whether steps will be taken to curtail the illegal disruptions caused by the law enforcers. It is already apparent to most that the entire electoral process has been turned into a farce.

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2023

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