The summary is as follows:
The Master Plan of Rigging 2008 Elections UnveiledThe version I have is only 47 pages long, whereas press reports speak of 160 pages. It appears on quick reading to argue that Military Intelligence, rather than the ISI, is the agency responsible for assuring that the election is rigged. I will post more as I receive it.
The administration has planned to rig the Elections in the following manner:
- Where an opposing candidate is strong in an area, they have planned to create a conflict at the polling station, even killing people if necessary, to stop polls for at least 3 - 4 hours. The polling stations will be granted extended opening of thirty minutes which will not be made up for the time lost.
- Where they collect and secure the ballot box at the end of the polling day, the place will be broken into and ballots will not be stolen but thrown on the floor so they will have solid basis to call for a re-count during which process they will add the votes for their candidates.
- 90 percent of the equipment that the USA gave the government of Pakistan to fight terrorism is being used to monitor and to keep a check on their political opponents especially the PPP. All of our communications as well as that of other major leaders in other parties are compromised by them. They listen to our conversations up to a mile away and intercept our communications.
- The regime has asked government-sponsored candidates to give names of their security guards and local thugs to enroll them into the police for three days on election duty. These also include ex-Army personnel. They will be used to fire at voter's stations and drive voters away so that ballots can be stuffed.
- Election officials are still being changed/transferred.
- Military Intelligence sits in the offices of returning officers, police officials and other elections officials.
- Election agents with voters' lists are being asked to give tampered lists to presiding officers.
- Election being stitched up.
From now until February 18, when the general elections in Pakistan are scheduled, we will hear a lot about election rigging. I have written about it here and here and also discussed it with Scott Horton of Harpers. I would now like to present some more material, including my correspondence with Staffan Darnolf, a Swedish electoral specialist who has been working with the Electoral Commission of Pakistan for over a year. I was delayed in posting this, as I was waiting for consent from Darnolf in Islamabad, who just gave his approval, remarking, "Just had our fourth power cut today, so sorry for the late reply."
First, general background: Professor Rasul Bakhsh Rais of Lahore University of Management Sciences has written a paper called "Pakistan Elections: Troubled Legacy," a summary of which appeared in The News (Lahore). I will ask Rasul (whose office was next to mine at Columbia University many years ago) for a full copy of the paper and try to make it available. On December 5, the government filed charges against four professors of LUMS, including Rasul, as well as two students,under the Maintenance of Public Order Act, for some act of protest against Emergency rule and dismissal of the Supreme Court. As far as I know, however, the authorities have not gotten around to actually arresting them, as they are preoccupied with other matters. Here is the core of what Professor Rais has to say:
There is lot of evidence to support the allegations that elections have rarely been free or fair in the history of Pakistan except the 1970 [elections]. No elections ever since have been acclaimed as fair and its outcome accepted without doubts and reservations. However the intensity of the claim, as to how the elections were rigged, to what extent, and to favour whom have varied from elections to elections in Pakistan. The question why the outcome of elections has been contested, leads to the second characteristic of the Pakistani elections, the mistrust of the electoral machinery of the country. The Election Commission of Pakistan.Next, recent events: Both the Guardian and the Times of London have reported that, the evening of her assassination, Benazir Bhutto was to present to visiting U.S. Senators and Congressional representatives a report on preparations being made to rig the elections. Declan Walsh of the Guardian:
It is because the Commission has failed to cultivate impartiality and trust the two values that would be necessary to make any electoral exercise as successful. This begs another question; have the regimes in power used the electoral machinery to produce results to suit their interests? The answer to this question leads to the third feature of the Pakistani elections-partiality of the executive branch of the government. Interestingly, seven out of eight general elections since 1970 have been conducted either by a military regime directly or by an interim government that it created under its supervision. Therein lies the real dilemma of Pakistan's electoral politics-the civil military relations in Pakistan. The military in Pakistan has its own vision of good politics, good society, good economy and good democracy. It doesn't trust the politicians, nor does it believe that they are genuine representatives of the people of Pakistan. All the military leaders who captured power have viewed free play of democratic forces as dangerous, anti-development, and pregnant with the potential of degenerating to lawlessness and anarchy. In military-dominated or military-directed political system, the electoral process loses its credibility, as it seen by the public as an exercise to bring into power the most favoured groups and route out those opposed to its interventions. The real value of the electoral process lies in facilitating a representative government, and not in being an instrument of political manipulation. Unfortunately, the later expression is true of the way elections have been conducted in Pakistan. It is widely alleged and believed that through its intelligence agencies the military in the shadows or over the horizon has attempted to change the loyalties of politicians, has funded political campaigns of the favourite groups, and has used the Election Commission to change electoral results selectively, if not wholly. [emphasis added.] With low trust in the electoral process and frequent allegations of defrauding the opposition of its true electoral representation, the voter turn out in Pakistani elections has declined. It is also a reflection of distrust of the political class in Pakistan.
The PPP claims to have identified the safe house, the location of which is given in a smaller document "of much greater sensitivity." According to Jeremy Page for the Times:
Bhutto had obtained details of an Islamabad safe house run by the country's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency from where it intended to manipulate the poll, said Sarfraz Khan Lashari, an official on her party's 10-member election monitoring cell. The ISI-led operation would rig the vote in favour of President Pervez Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League-Q party through ballot stuffing in constituencies across Sindh and Punjab provinces, he said. The ISI has a long history of meddling with elections in Pakistan, usually in the interest of the country's military establishment.
In 1990 the ISI received 140m rupees (£1.1m at current values) to rig national elections, according to supreme court testimony by the then chief of army staff, General Mirza Aslam Beg.
There is no ISI spokesman but a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied the claims. "How can you run an election rigging campaign from a safe house? There is a lot of talk about the ISI but not much substance," he said.
The second report, which Ms Bhutto did not plan to release to the media, alleged that the ISI was using some of the $10 billion (£5 billion) in US military aid that Pakistan has received since 2001 to run a covert election operation from a safe house in G5, a central district of Islamabad, he said.Finally, my discussion with Staffan Darnolf. In his first note, Darnolf wrote:
“The report was done by some people who we’ve got in the services. They directly dealt with Benazir Bhutto,” [Lashari] continued, adding that Ms Bhutto was planning to share the contents of the report with the British Ambassador as well as the US lawmakers.
It was with great interest that I read your interview in Harper’s Magazine. Since working on the Afghanistan elections back in 2004 & 2005, I have always tried to read your work and commentaries. For the last 15 months I have now been working with the ECP [Electoral Commission of Pakistan] here in Pakistan.I responded:
I am the first to recognize that the electoral process in Pakistan leaves much to be desired. This includes the method for allocating voters to polling stations, ECP's interaction with political parties and the aggregation of results. In order to achieve the necessary improvements I am of the opinion that we must accurately present the problems.
In this article you mentioned that the elections are likely to be rigged with the assistance of ISI and district administration as “[t]hese ballots, already printed, filled out, and prepared, are then added to those transported from polling places for the final count.” Could you elaborate a bit more here, as I simply don’t understand your argument. The reason being that no central counting of ballot papers take place. The ballot boxes are opened at the polling stations and the ballot papers are counted at the individual polling stations.
The method of rigging that I described is sometimes called "ghost polling places." Nawaz Sharif was quoted in the NYT today.Darnolf replied:
[I erred, as the quotation was actually from Nawaz's brother, Shahbaz Sharif, reported by Jane Perlez:He [Shahbaz Sharif] accused the current chief minister of Punjab, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, of planning to distribute forged ballot papers and to create “ghost” polling places in order to swing the election in favor of Mr. Musharraf’s party. “Ghost” polling places are extra polling places that are often created in Pakistani elections to enhance the vote totals of one side or another.]I myself witnessed the ballot counting at the polling place in Sukkur in 1990. It was a model of the democratic process! Then the ballots are sealed with the total and sent to the division center or somewhere [the Returns Office for the constituency] for the totaling of all the polling places in the constituency. The polling places are forbidden to release their counts to the public. But they are monitored by the ISI elections cell. The elections cell checks the "real results" and then adds results from "ghost polling places" before the final count is announced in order to achieve the desired outcome. The ballots are prepared in advance for those constituencies where the ISI's pollling indicates it is necessary. (The desired result is not 99% for PML-Q, but the right balance of seats to leave the military firmly in control while making it look like a parliamentary system.) This produces some odd turnout figures unless real turnout is kept down, which is why the latter is important.
The results aggregation process you are describing in your email might have been in place 17 years ago, but is no longer the case. Nowadays the ballots are counted at the polling station immediately following the end of polling. Party agents and observers are given a copy of the results form. The results forms, and other election material, are sent to the Returning Officer in-charge of the constituency in question, for aggregation. However, no physical counting is taking place at the RO-level. The RO will review the results forms and tally the results based on these documents. In accordance with the National Reconciliation Ordinance and ECP procedures, the aggregated results are shared with party agents and observers present at the Returning Officer premises. Unfortunately, observers and party agents have not always focused on this part of the process, or in some cases been refused access to the RO, which is of great concern to me.In his final note, in response to my request for his permission to publish his views, he added:
What my argument boils down to is that this notion of ghost polling stations is a red herring. Why go through this huge exercise involving thousands of people to try to siphon off ballot papers, get your hands on ballot boxes, security seals, the right stamps, the original forms, prep the ballot papers and then have them sent to the Returning Officers' premises where no counting of the ballots are taking place? Also, how do you produce faked voters list for these ghost polling stations now when the voters lists are computerized and can be easily verified?I would be grateful for any further contributions to this discussion.
To me, this seems as far-fetched as the allegation by some political parties in late November and the first week of December stating that 108 Punjab NA constituencies had been selected for rigging, as the ruling party's representatives had already received 20-30K (the reported number varied) extra ballot papers for stuffing. The problem with this accusation is that candidate nomination only ended on Dec 15. And before that no one knows which parties and candidates will actually run for office. Hence, it is only on December 16th that the final design of the real ballots are known and they can be produced for any of the 849 directly elected constituencies.