I erred in stating that the computers in question were supplied by the U.S. My source (below) did not say who funded the computers. This report was circulated by a Pakistani colleague who accompanied it with some critical remarks about U.S. aid to the ECP, which I confused with the report itself. There is no reference to U.S. aid in my source (below). Also, the computers were plugged in but not turned on. My source was a Reuters report from Attock on December 25, 2007. Attock is the historical fortress town on the bend of the Indus River marking the boundary of Punjab and NWFP. At one time it was the frontier of the Mughal Empire with Afghanistan. It is about 80 km (50 miles) from Islamabad on a well-trafficked multi-lane highway:
ATTOCK: The Election Commission’s office in Attock is in a run-down building on the outskirts of town.On post-polling rigging, my correspondent argued that some additional safeguards had been introduced. I hope to publish his description tomorrow and seek comments from others.
Several dusty computers sit on tables, none of them switched on, and the office has no internet connection [high-speed internet connections are widely available in Pakistan], said the only person there on Monday morning, a caretaker with a grey beard. “No one’s here,” said the caretaker, Ghulam Rafiq, when a Reuters reporter stopped by. Transparent plastic ballot boxes were stacked up with piles of election manuals in boxes.
“He comes very rarely,” Rafiq said when asked about the district’s main election officer. “He’s a man of his own will.” Pakistani opposition parties are pinning their hopes for free and fair parliamentary elections on Jan 8 on Election Commission offices like the one in Attock.
But in this town on the Indus River in Punjab province, opposition politicians said the commission was ignoring complaints of unfair electioneering by candidates who support President Pervez Musharraf.
“The election commission seems to be totally paralysed,” said Malik Amin Aslam, a former environment minister running as an independent candidate. “We are providing them information with proof,” he said of his complaints about unfair electioneering by his opponents.
“There’s no doubt there’s a plan to support certain politicians and parties.” Three members of a powerful political family that supports Musharraf are contesting in Attock’s three constituencies.
The father of one of the candidates is the district government chief who is meant to be impartial but on Monday was seen asking voters to support the three. His photograph appears on his daughter’s election posters.
“Voters are being openly threatened and they are changing their loyalties but the election commission is paying no attention. They are part of this rigging plan,” said Sheikh Aftab Ahmed, a candidate for PML-N party. But Attock’s assistant election commissioner, Sardar Mazhar Hussain, tracked down at a town court, said his office had not got any complaints in writing so there was nothing he could do.
“There’s no question of taking action against anybody.” Attock’s chief election commission official, district returning officer Tariq Abbasi, said his office could do much more if it had the resources and workers.
Meanwhile, I have located online the National Democratic Institute's Report of the International Observer Delegation to the Pakistan Elections in October 1990. Unfortunately the file is posted in a nearly illegible (pre-PDF) format. It includes the report I drafted of my experiences on election day in Sukkur, Sindh, together with my colleague, Senegalese journalist Boubacar Toure. (Toure and I were surprised to find among the disenfranchised PPP supporters in rural Sindh a man of unmistakably African appearance, perhaps a remnant of the Indian Ocean slave trade.) These experiences (only partly reproduced here) have left me with a persistent skepticism about elections in Pakistan:
Around 11:30 that night we went to try to find the DC [Division Commissioner] and see what happened elsewhere. Our car was unavailable, so we went out in the street and more or less stood there until a passing motorist picked us up. He took us to the home of the commissioner of Sukkur division, where we found the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner Kamran Lashari, and a commander of the police rangers.For those not familiar with this cast of characters, Jam Sadiq Ali was thus memorialized by Dawn columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee:
Lashari asked us how our day had gone. We told him what we had seen [several incidents of violence, booth capturing, intimidation] and said he was surprised. He was under the impression that order had been restored in Ghotki, and he did not realize that the polling agents had been kidnapped. We gave him the written Urdu statement to read.
The three officers present were receiving telephone calls giving them information on the law and order situation (which was now generally calm) and on the election returns. They told us what they were hearing. While we unfortunately did not take notes on these results (which we imagined were definitive), we later compared our recollection of these events, and we are in agreement that we remember hearing the following two statements:
1. The PPP had carried all three seats in Sukkur district. This includes NA 153, where the son of Pir Pagara [a large landowner from a Sufi family aligned with the government], Sadruddin Shah, was running against the PPP.
2. Asif Ali Zardari [PPP candidate, husband of Benazir Bhutto] had defeated Murtaza Jatoi [son of caretaker Prime Minister Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi] in Nawabshah.
The next day in Karachi we were surprised to read in the newspapers that Murtaza Jatoi had been declared the winner in Nawabshah by the Election Commission in Islamabad. We were also surprised to hear from Jam Sadiq Ali [Chief Minister of Sindh] that the son of Pir Pagara had won in NA 153.
Blackguard, murderer, grand larcenist (he died before he could be convicted). He was a likeable rogue, who never denied the fact that he was a rogue.The internet includes some helpful descriptions of how Jam Sadiq Ali carried out his job.
Despite all his attributes, he was chosen to be the chief minister of Sindh by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan to serve his nefarious purposes. GIK wished to remain in power for eternity. Jam as CM robbed and plundered again - as he had done during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's regime. But this time around he did not kill. Cancer killed him.
He left a very charming Hindu wife, lots of offspring, and lots and lots of moolah.
This just in: a Report on Pakistan from the International Crisis Group:
Islamabad/Brussels, 2 January 2008: If Pakistan is to be stable in the wake of Benazir Bhutto's murder, President Pervez Musharraf must resign and a quick transition follow to a democratically elected civilian government.
After Bhutto's Murder: A Way Forward for Pakistan, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, concludes that Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, is no longer, if he ever was, a factor for stability. Particularly the U.S. must recognise he is a serious liability, seen as complicit in the death of the popular politician. Unless he steps down, tensions will worsen and the international community could face the nightmare of a nuclear-armed, Muslim country descending into civil war from which extremists would stand to gain.
Bhuttos death has drawn the battle lines even more clearly between Musharraf's military-backed regime and Pakistans moderate majority, which will settle for nothing less than genuine parliamentary democracy, says Mark Schneider, Crisis Group's Senior Vice-President.
Crisis Group agrees with the Election Commission decision to postpone the parliamentary election scheduled for 8 January to 18 February but only if additional steps are taken so that the delay contributes to the creation of conditions for free and fair elections and the restoration of democracy.
These include, in addition to Musharraf's resignation: appointment, in consultation with the political parties, of caretaker governments at federal and provincial levels; full restoration of the constitution; and restoration of judicial independence, including reappointment of the judges Musharraf dismissed because they would not do his bidding in November when he declared martial law. The international community should also support an independent, fixed-deadline investigation into Bhuttos murder.
It is time to recognise that democracy, not an artificially propped-up, defrocked, widely despised general has the best chance to provide stability and turn back extremists gains, says Robert Templer, Crisis Groups Asia Program Director.