Bye Elections Under the Army... By Col.(r) Riaz
20 August, 2013
For the coming bye elections about a 1000 polling stations (PS) have been declared as most sensitive and another 3000 as sensitive only. Each most sensitive PS will have army personnel both inside and outside the PS, whereas on the sensitive PSs army men will be deployed only on the outside of the PS. Even if one soldier is deployed inside the PS and two are placed outside each PS, at least more than 9000 men would be required. Such a large force can only come from the lower ranks of the army - sepoys and NCOs only. What would be their task? What we hear is to maintain law and order at the PSs and ensure free and fair polling.
The million dollar question is how would they do it? Can a single sepoy monitor, supervise and ensure fair polling in a haroosh of polling agents, their assistants, plethora of election staff comprising of voting lists handlers, markers of thumbs with indelible ink, in charge of a number of polling booths, Retu rning Officer with judicial powers etc. apart from the voters – anything two to three dozen people at a time inside a PS. Now if he finds someone indulging in a malpractice what will he do? Just ask him not to do it. Hypothetically speaking, if the man does not pay heed or defies the soldier openly or still worse as it happens normally a scuffle takes place between him and a few of the supporters of the villain then what? He is an ordinary sepoy all by himself or at the most two of them, without any officer to report to or take orders from, should he shoot the culprit? Mind you the next PS with a two or three soldiers could be about a mile away. Similarly, what will two or three soldiers do outside a PS if they are thronged by dozens and scores of emotionally charged political workers and enthusiasts? Open fire upon them to disperse them? They will do nothing of the sorts inside or outside the PSs. The rigging and cheating will go on even in the ir presence and all they will do is earn a bad name. After the elections the losers will blame the army either for being not effective or worse blame them for siding with the winner.
If I were Kiyani, I would not accept the task. I will not make army lose its face and standing among its own people. If army has to ensure fair polling then Army should be given the task of CONDUCTING the polls under its own arrangements. No Returning officers, no civil officials of any kind (mostly school teachers and clerks etc) to conduct the polls. It will be the army personnel all along down to the counting and compiling of the results. Take it or leave it, but fair and firm with no nonsense it shall be.
Col. Riaz Jafri (Retd)