Scrutiny process assailed: HRCP sees moves to sabotage democracy
LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed concern on Saturday over ‘systematic attempts’ to exclude candidates from the electoral process and sabotage people’s ability to elect candidates of their choice or call them to account for their mistakes.
In a statement issued by the HRCP’s executive council at the conclusion of its meeting, the commission said: “It is manifestly clear now that the latest process of scrutiny of candidates is a witch-hunt aimed at harassing and humiliating candidates. It undermines the essence of what democracy entails and shows a complete lack of faith in people’s right and ability to choose their representatives.
“HRCP acknowledges the ability of political governments to overcome the challenges thrown at them one after the other, including establishment of the caretaker set-up. However, where we stand today is in large measures the result of the political governments shying away from acknowledging overt interference in active politics by state institutions who had no business doing that. That is why the process today is subject to manipulation by a number of vested interests of non-representative groups, institutions and bodies.”
It said the people of Pakistan were able to tell the difference between fair and puritanical elections, adding the ‘selection’ of candidates over the past few days had also raised other questions. “The completely arbitrary barring of candidates by returning officers at this scale cannot be without instructions and encouragement to take this tack. HRCP sees a clear and systematic sabotage of the democratic process to make the will of the people completely irrelevant. This deliberate and planned abuse of the process appears to be a bid to complete Ziaul Haq’s agenda to accommodate extremism into mainstream politics and to
thrust theocratic rule down people’s throats.”
The HRCP called upon the political parties and civil society to vigilantly guard against these attempts to ‘liquidate’ democracy and reject the bids to delay elections under any pretext or to introduce unrepresentative rule. That, it warned, would be exceedingly unwise and dangerous and something that Pakistan simply cannot afford at this juncture.
It also asked the Election Commission to intervene to stop the asymmetric warfare on the electoral process.
“HRCP also calls upon all political leadership to express their opinion openly on this devious plan of enforcing selective rule of a few so-called angels on Pakistan’s fate. The sole voice denouncing such tendency has come from the head of only one political party. Others too need to shed their fear and speak up at this critical moment.”
Meanwhile, addressing a press conference at the Lahore Press Club, Asma Jahangir, a former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, said intrusive questions being asked by the returning officers appeared to be part of a campaign aimed at humiliating the politicians.
Ms Jahangir criticised the chief justice of Pakistan for addressing the returning officers and said the role being played by the judiciary was not a contribution to the election process. Holding of the polls, she pointed out, was the sole responsibility of the Election Commission and judiciary had nothing to do with it.