Tuesday April 23, 2024

Purging candidates

The concept of pre-selection of candidates running for public office in Pakistan is a welcome develo

By Ahmed Quraishi
April 19, 2013
The concept of pre-selection of candidates running for public office in Pakistan is a welcome development. It’s a small step forward in a failed democratic system where corrupt and inefficient candidates often succeed in holding important positions in politics and government without scrutiny.
The Pakistani version of democracy offers few checks on politicians running for office. For example, many faces in our politics have not changed since the 1985 general election. Even after three decades, we have politicians who will not give way to new blood and new thinking.
So, the concept is welcome, especially when all democracies use various methods to screen candidates for suitability and weed out the deadwood. That is why it is disturbing to see the self-styled democratic warriors of our ill-fated democracy mount a vicious campaign to discredit Pakistani laws and constitution when their qualifications to rule the Pakistani nation are challenged.
More worrying is how some politicians are knocking the doors of international media to ‘internationalise’ the issue instead of evolving a national consensus on a mechanism to screen candidates for suitability.
One of President Zardari’s close aide and former media adviser is going to the American media to disparage Pakistani law and election officers. In an article written for an American magazine, she accuses Pakistani election officers of blocking ‘secular’ candidates in favour of ‘militants and terrorists.’ Her words are deliberately alarmist and carefully chosen to pander to the fears of her chosen foreign audience.
Considering her key role inside Pakistan People’s Party, it is fair to conclude that inviting international influence in our election process is an official policy of her party endorsed by former coalition partners – the MQM and the ANP whom she lists in her passionate defence. Never mind that she lied under oath while submitting her papers to election officers in 2008 and her parliament membership was suspended by the highest court in Pakistan in accordance with the constitution.
While screening candidates is good, the exaggerated and ridiculous questions that some election officers asked candidates as reported in the media points to an attempt to discredit the entire legitimate screening process.
Consider this: Last year, a heavyweight feudal politician of the PPP physically assaulted a federal election officer in the full glare of the media.
Just like the rest of the Pakistani voters, election officers know they live in the shadow of powerful and bully-like politicians, often armed, and it is nearly impossible for the Election Commission and its members to act completely independent of the corrupting influence of our political elite, especially when this elite is armed to the teeth.
The state has often chosen to be weak in protecting its own officers. So, imagine, under these circumstances, we have election officers in remote parts of the country daring to ask ridiculous questions to disqualify powerful candidates.
Three parties – the PPP, MQM, and ANP – created a discredited political alliance in 2007 under a heavy foreign influence, particularly from the governments of the United States and Britain, to form a government after the 2008 election. It was one of the most shameful examples of foreign interference to hijack the will of the Pakistani nation.
Today, efforts continue to hijack Pakistan’s vote. The slander campaign against screening of candidates is part of that effort. The objective is to prolong the life of a discredited political alliance beyond the 2013 election.