Fair CEC, unfair polls byKunwar Idrees
The appointment of Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim as Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has raised widespread hope that the next elections will be fair. The chief contenders for power — the PPP, the PML-N and Imran Khan’s Tsunami — have hardly ever agreed on any issue of importance, but they have all welcomed ‘Fakhru Bhai’s’ appointment.
But let not that unanimity delude the people into believing that the election campaign and the polls will also be fair. President Asif Ali Zardari’s emphatic claim that his party would sweep the polls in all the provinces may be wholly contrary to the findings of the pollsters but should not be dismissed as mere wishful thinking.
President Zardari seems to know more than his rivals that the election commission can only lay down the system and procedures that enable the parties to campaign freely on a level pitch and the citizens to vote freely. But the government officials bribed by the candidates, or coerced by their bosses, can queer the pitch.
The appointment of an impartial CEC is the first crucial, but relatively easy, step towards fair electioneering and voting. No less important, but open to greater controversy, would be the appointment of the caretaker governments at the centre and the provinces. But the clincher must lie in the selection of the administrative heads of police, revenue, irrigation, etc. at the districts and their officials down the line.