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November 12, 2012

1990 polls were also rigged on polling day

November 12, 2012

LAHORE: Although the Supreme Court judgment in Asghar Khan case has already established that the Pakistani establishment had resorted to pre-poll rigging in the 1990 elections by doling out millions of rupees among anti-PPP politicians, there is ample evidence to suggest that these polls were also subjected to election day rigging on a massive scale to ensure the victory of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) led by Nawaz Sharif.
The recent apex court ruling said “the 1990 general elections were polluted by the dishing out of Rs140 million to a particular group of politicians only to deprive the people of being represented by people chosen by them”.
Compared with the results of the 1988 elections, there was a dramatic decline in the parliamentary strength of the PPP in the 1990 polls despite the fact that the Bhutto-led party had contested it from the platform of the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) by forming a coalition with three smaller parties.
The 1990 elections were won by the IJI, bagging 110 of the 207 seats of the National Assembly, with the PDA securing only 44 seats. Although the 1990 elections were held less than two years after the 1988 general elections, the electoral strength of the PPP came down from 92 to 44 seats while the electoral strength of the IJI went up from 55 to 110 seats.
The most pertinent question raised at that time by international observers monitoring the elections was: how can the PPP lose 40 seats in Punjab in a short span of two years, plunging from 53 National Assembly seats to only 13. In fact, a surprising gain of 12 percent of votes in Punjab by the IJI, compared with the 1988 polls, completely changed the landscape in the National Assembly, enabling Nawaz Sharif to clinch the slot of the prime minister.
As the October 1990 general elections were being held in a highly charged political atmosphere in the backdrop of the August 1990 premature dismissal of Benazir’s first government by President

Ghulam Ishaq Khan, several teams of international observers had monitored these election, the most vital being a 40-member delegation despatched by the National Democratic Institute (NDI).
According to its mandate, the NDI delegation evaluated the 1990 general elections in three phases: the pre-poll preparations and campaign environment; the balloting and counting processes; and post election reviews of the formation of new government and the complaints filed before the Election Commission.
In its executive summary of the 1990 elections, the National Democratic Institute had concluded that the conditions under which the elections were held favoured the IJI, whose leaders formed the caretaker government and placed the PDA at a significant disadvantage.
“The PDA made the most sweeping accusations about the electoral process, incorporating criticism of its opponents, the government and the military. The PDA filed numerous general and specific complaints with the CEC. Because the most serious complaints were filed by the PDA, the NDI post election investigation focused on those constituencies where the PDA had alleged that serious abuses had occurred.
But the IJI benefitted from the caretaker government’s extensive use of the perquisites of incumbency, including the selective use of accountability tribunals to investigative allegations of corruption levelled against the members of the Bhutto government. Some government officials encouraged the election-day irregularities by assigning presiding officer based on political loyalties and by preventing party agents from fulfilling their responsibilities”, said the executive summary of the NDI report on 1990 polls.
In its final report on the elections, the NDI observes had divided the PDA allegations into two categories: irregularities and fraud that affected a limited number of voters and commonly referred to as retail fraud and manipulation of the results, commonly labelled wholesale fraud.
The PDA cited misuse of government funds to influence voters, disenfranchisement of voters and multiple voting as examples of retail fraud. For example, in NA 95, from where Nawaz Sharif was contesting against Asghar Khan, the PDA candidate had produced registration lists that showed hundreds of voters as having the same address as well as hundreds of voters registered in more than one polling station.
“These people allegedly voted more than once that could have changed the outcome of the results in a race where the IJI President had won by a margin of more than 20,000 votes. Nonetheless the existence of registration lists with such significant problems raises the possibility that multiple voting could have affected the electoral process”.
The NDI report on 1990 polls further stated: “Eyewitness accounts and reports from returning officers recounted pre-election and election day incidents of shootings, kidnappings and murders. The highest concentration of problems occurred in Sindh, although the other three provinces also reported serious incidents. These incidents clearly represented a breakdown in civil authority and almost certainly kept some people away from the polls.

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