Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Eyewitness Account - Rigging in Karachi

Zeenia Shaukat

Though it might come a bit late in the day, I thought I should share my experience with you people in any case. I, along with my aunty, went to vote at NA-252 St Lawrence School, Garden East. We went at around 4:35pm. We couldn’t find our names in the voters list. While they were looking for our names in the list, one young lady entered to vote. Her name was found on the list, but she was told that there were no ballot papers in the polling booth. “Why didn’t you come in earlier? We have been here since morning, and hardly anybody dropped in to vote.” I asked them why they were running out of the ballot papers now, when, as she says, the voters didn’t turn up during the day? Obviously, I got no answer.

As we were waiting for our news on the voters list, my aunt noticed one of the presiding officers stamping the ballot papers on her own. She was sitting in a corner and didn’t have anybody around. Before we could ask any questions, a man came to her and took all the papers away, to put them in the ballot box. We failed to find our name in the list and were told to go to another polling booth.

Once we entered the room, we were told to hurry up as time was running out. It was a polling booth meant for women, but there were three young men sitting at a desk in the corner. One guy was stamping the ballot papers at the kite symbol. I asked him how many votes did he have? Wasn’t he supposed to cast just one vote? No reply, as expected, but he was taken aback. A senior presiding officer then walked in, and asked that man to stop, saying “pehley he bara (12) books khatam kar li hain. Ab bas karo. Objection ho jayega.”

We were told to vote in any case, even though our names were not found on the list. The ballot paper for provincial assembly that I and my aunty got already had a stamp on the Kite symbol. We tore it. The guy who was earlier stamping the papers walked up to us and said, “Madam, jitna chahein try karlein. Inn sarey papers per MQM hi ki mohar lagi huwi hai.” We cast our vote for NA seat only.

No surprise then that the MQM won from the area with a "heavy majority". I think it was meant to win in any case as people in our area do favours for them for the work that the City Govt has been doing. But why did they have to make a mockery of the entire exercise? I guess I will not get any answers for this one either.

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