Pakistan’s political and electoral history is rife with conflicts and violence. Therefore, utmost efforts are needed to hold fair and free elections slated for May 11. In fact, it is test of not only Pakistani society but all other relevant institutions to provide level playing field to all political players and ensure safety of their respective electorates. Each political party in the country has its own political agenda to woo the people for votes but all of them must unite united against incidents of violence and bloodshed to ensure smooth electoral process.
Elections provide means to people to channel their energies through competitions in a constructive way and choose their representatives. The elected representatives are finally trusted with responsibility of ensuring social justice and peace. Subsequently, the institutions are strengthened to guarantee peace and security to the people. However, since elections are intrinsically designed to gain power, therefore, the possibility of violence and conflict during or before the elections cannot be ruled out.
Pakistan is faced with militancy and terrorism. Hence, the likelihood of electoral violence and election-related conflicts is higher here than in most of the world. According to some studies, Election Day claims fewer victims than the period three months before Election Day or the period three months after. This may be due to the presence of observers and the attention, both national and international, focused on the election at that time. The electoral violence before the Election Day has claimed dozens of lives while election offices and political gatherings of different parties are being attacked.
The Election Commission of Pakistan and law enforcing agencies should start preparations to shun violence on the Election Day. The electoral violence can be avoided easily if consistent efforts are made to deter the militants and insurgents. In addition, electoral violence is not always caused by the insurgents and militants, rather, an opposition political party or workers of a specific party can also trigger violence for their political gains. So, the Election Commission and other related institutions should keep all these points in mind while charting out a final and holistic strategy to deal with the violence and suppression.
The political parties participating in the election must abide by the code of conduct prepared and announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan. The polling stations staff should also be trained and educated well about the electoral violence and how to report the incidents to the relevant authorities. The prime responsibility to highlight incidents of electoral violence lies with the media and fortunately, it is doing well on this account. Social media and citizen journalists can also play in effective role in highlighting the anomalies and reporting them to the Election Commission.
The Election Commission should install security cameras at sensitive polling stations to get video footage of electoral violence, if any takes place. By deploying army troops and security forces at sensitive polling stations can also help check the incidents of electoral violence and hold free and fair elections. The Election Commission should declare result of a polling station or even a constituency null and void, if incidents of electoral violence are reported. If Election Commission succeeds in curbing incidents of the electoral violence, it will ultimately help register a record turnout of voters in this historic election.