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WITH the general elections five weeks away, the printing of ballot papers must await, first, the prime minister’s recommendation to the president and, second, the issuance of an ordinance by the latter because the Election Commission of Pakistan has a new, if not fancy, idea. Without taking away anything from the hard work the ECP is doing under the guidance of Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, we are at a loss to understand the utility and urgency of the ‘none of the above’ option to be included in the ballot paper. That some countries do give this option to their voters doesn’t mean Pakistan should follow them. Conditions in Pakistan are vastly different and do not justify a phrase whose cumulative effect on the people’s psyche may erode their belief in democracy. The elections next month are going to be a landmark in our country’s history. For that reason the aim of all stakeholders should be to strengthen the people’s belief in the ability of their elected represen-tatives to serve them.

Four military interventions didn’t allow Pakis-tan to develop democratic institutions. This was obviously reflected in the quality of politicians.

Nevertheless, the completion of the five-year term by the last legis-latures testifies to the elected representatives’ ability to work democracy and push the process forward. The ‘none of the above’ option could perhaps bewilder a voter and induce negative feelings about the process itself. Already there are anti-democratic forces waiting in the wings, and there are extremists in the religious right who believe democracy to be anti-thetical to Islam. The two schools of thought may otherwise be incompatible, but their views on democracy converge. In case 51 per cent of voters stamp the ‘none of the above’ box, a re-election will be required. Pakistan is not ready for this. If at all this option is to be included in the ballot paper, why the hurry? Why not leave it to the next parliament? The May 11 vote is too precious to be trifled with.

Comments (13) Closed

Abdullah Apr 05, 2013 11:21am
Look at the recent British Council survey. Democracy in Pakistan has failed and for 5 years it was demonstrated. To say that democracy need time to evolve is like saying repeat what does not work visavis the definition of insanity. Democracy has failed in Europe - Look at the economic melt down and the bailouts of capitalists by the democrats at public expense. Look at India and how India killed 20 million girls while remaining 'democratic' PK need Islam!
W. Malik Apr 05, 2013 11:30am
'None of the above box' was an unnecessary step. It would make sense if voting was made compulsory for all citizens.
hyderphd74 Apr 05, 2013 09:34pm
May be it is the converse: Islam needs Pakistan !!
irtaza Apr 05, 2013 05:57pm
Bro democracy is basically a ferrari. If the driver can drive it then its wonderful and if he cant then it will stay where it is if not slam into a tree. So you can't blame democracy for a countries failure. Democracy is also part of the Islamic teachings as the Khalifa is chosen by the people, which makes him elected.
baakhlaq Apr 05, 2013 08:34am
"None of the above" section in the ballot paper will only create ambiguity. It would be appropriate to make this election multipurpose, so there should be three extra sections without any name but symbols of judiciary, media and army should be there.
S. A . Afaqi, Apr 05, 2013 05:43pm
Already deliberate attempts are being by the 'top men' to delay every thing that ECP is left with no time to scruitinize so many thousands documents with in the reduced period of two weeks. In our general elections not more than 30 to 40 percent of voters cast their votes. the rest 60 to 70 percent voters practically means casting their vote for 'none of the above box'. With no sufficient time for proper checking of fake degrees, bank loan defaulters non-payment of utility bills , the empty box philosophy is just an idea for the sake of idea which means no, none and nothing, just wasting of time.
aziz Apr 05, 2013 02:14pm
The entry would ensure that if majority of the people select 'none of the above' then there will have to be new candidates. This is one way to reduce the number of 'undesirables' in the parliament which the present system cannot filter out
observer Apr 05, 2013 04:25am
totally agreed that 'none of the above' box is unneessary and will perhaps turn out to be counter-productive.
ali Apr 05, 2013 04:46pm
You need to live in one the western countries to see how smoothly democracy works and has been working for last hundreds of years. There is no tested and tried model of Islam that can be practiced in Pakistan. Jinnah wanted it to be an experimental lab for Islam and look at what kind of lab we got.
Tajmeer Apr 05, 2013 04:53am
I think its a good idea because lots of voters does not caste their votes because they don't like the candidate or they are not sure about honesty of a candidate. Why we afraid that this process will erode people's belief from democracy. I think this will strengthen democracy in a better way. It will give confidence to those who dont want to caste their votes. They will come out from their homes and caste their votes,although that will be as "non of the above".
efkaar Apr 05, 2013 01:13pm
Finally a choice to express my reservations about the candidacy in my constituency. A very good reason for me to take part in it this time. The ballot papers have already been printed but being so conscious about these petty nuisances we could always revert these forms, plus all other electoral reforms, to their former pristine glory, for the 2018 elections!
malik Apr 05, 2013 05:28am
They should put Gen. Kayani's picture in that empty box. Afterall this is all being done to please the establishment.
Salman Ali Apr 05, 2013 06:06am
Dear Sir, I do not agree with your views. Most of my kins and friends do not go to vote and make an excuse that there is no one worth voting. By adding this option, they will no longer have justification not to vote. And if they opt still not to go, they will lose moral right to criticise government.