It is irony of history that Pakistan never had a representative government after Zia regime. This is true both in qualitative and quantitative terms. Those thrown up as a result of dubious electoral exercise only belonged to so-called elite group without an iota of representation of the people. They never looked like their constituents and lived the life of ordinary people; the electorate. If we look at numbers of votes actually cast, we’d come to an unfortunate conclusion that the self-proclaimed representative of people sitting in the parliament and claiming to have mandate of the majority were actually rejected by majority vote. This is not a wild claim; it is actually backed by facts.
According to statistics, there was 43% voters’ turnout in 1988, 45% in 1990, 40% in 1993, 35% in 1997, 42% in 2002 and 45% in 2008. Voters’ turnout in 1977, however, was a little more than 50%. If we count the number of fake votes and the scale of rigging leading to a popular revolt against ZAB, even this figure of 50% plus looks suspect. This shows ordinary voters’ progressive loss of faith in electoral politics in Pakistan. They knew that nothing substantial will come out of this dubious exercise conducted in the name of democracy.
This is an alarming statistics. If those sitting in the Parliament were not representing majority of voters, was it legally and morally correct to hand over reins of power to those fraudsters who impersonated as representatives. And who were those who elected them? Majority of those herded to the polling stations were captive voters who had to vote under the pressure of family, clan or under coercion from landlords or political dons for fear of adverse consequences. Low turnout is also partly because in certain areas female voters are not allowed to cast their votes.
Let us look at another interesting fact. The statistics have established a correlation between voters’ turnout and level of their education. Those living in urban areas and with proper educational qualification were not interested to vote at all. It means that the thinking majority of this country is neither interested in taking part in elections nor casting their votes. They despise the system and they have an inherent contempt and disgust for those who make huge investments to get elected.
One of the most popular Twitter hashtags these days is Vote4None which shows the amount of contempt the educated class holds for the electoral system of Pakistan.
Let’s look at the quality of those who instantly become leaders of this hapless country and its population after getting elected. Most of them were fraudster who cheated their way through the Parliament. They forged their educational testimonials to become eligible and lied under oath that they were not citizens of any other country. That they were tax-dodgers, loan defaulters and small-time thugs is another matter. This has made the entire electoral system corrupt to the core.
It is irony that this indifference on the part of voters and their total lack of enthusiasm has gone completely unnoticed because everyone seemed to be interested in the ritual and not the substance and spirit of democracy.
It is time that the Election Commission of Pakistan introduces in the ballot paper an option for voters to enable them to show their no-confidence in all the candidates on the paper. This is also the verdict of the apex court. This will give a valid reason to all heretofore abstaining voters to go and express their choice.