Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Massive fraud! - An Eyewitness Account

Erik de Bruyn

Erik de Bruyn, leader of the left wing of the Flemish Socialist Party in Belgium has been invited by the PPP to monitor the elections in Pakistan. In particular he is monitoring the elections in the industrial belt of Karachi (NA 257) where the PPP candidate Riaz Lund is challenging the ruling extreme right wing party, the MQM. Here what his personal report on day of election.

Yesterday started with hope, as you can see from my earlier report. But what I saw yesterday made me realise that this Election Day was just the beginning of a very long struggle of liberation of the people of Pakistan. Yesterday I visited some twenty 'sensitive' polling stations. All of them are in an area dominated by the MQM, the party in power in Karachi and the Sindh Province and the local pillar of the Musharraf regime.

When I say 'dominated' you have to take this quite literally. In theory all parties have the right to send scrutineers to the polling stations. In this area I saw only twenty percent of stations with PPP scrutineers. Other opposition parties were not even to be seen. How is this possible? The scrutineers present are incredibly courageous people. They suffer ill treatment, are sometimes abducted and often even killed by the parties in power. A collaborator of an independent NGO told me that yesterday official figures indicated that 15 scrutineers of the PPP were assassinated in the whole country. Most of the 27 people killed yesterday were scrutineers at polling stations, quite apart from the abductions, torture, etc. Last night two PPP women activists in Karachi were still missing. We tried to compensate for the absence of a sufficient number of PPP scrutineers by organising a kind of flying picket in this 'sensitive zone'.
The forms with the electoral results being changed or filled in at the central counting office of the NA-257 district, where the data should only be collected and counted.

The absence of PPP scrutineers was not the only thing I saw: some polling stations were decorated as headquarters of the MQM. Election forms which had already been filled in (pro-MQM of course) were strewn around the tables ready to get stamped by the officials, identification papers of people who are not on the electoral rolls (in other words people who do not exist), suitcases filled with election forms which were either not sealed or badly sealed. Some of the cases of fraud were solved by our presence and intervention. Some 900 MQM votes have been declared null and void as a result of these irregularities.

However, the worst was yet to come. In the evening I went to the central counting office of the NA 257 district. What I saw and photographed there defies everything imaginable. Stacks of bags full of election forms were broken open. Forms were being filled in or changed in the corridors of the court hall. Other original forms were thrown away. Thanks to our pressure and the presence of the local media, a local president of the polling station was arrested and taken away. But will it surprise you to learn that the PPP candidate Riaz Lund, who in the evening was winning with 15,000 votes in 50 out of the 198 polling stations, has officially lost the election?

Muneer A Malik's Press Release regarding elections

Sheikh Rashid leaves Pakistan

(Courtesy The News)

KARACHI: Disgraced and defeated PML-Q leader Sheikh Rashid left Pakistan on Monday night for Spain after he was rejected by the people of Rawalpindi in Monday's massive anti-PML-Q sweep. The outspoken leader had earlier booked a flight to Dubai from Islamabad but when the story leaked to the media, he cancelled it. Later, he quietly took a flight to Karachi and then sneaked out of the country, unable to face the humiliation and possibly charges of corruption under a new government of PML-N and PPP leaders. Authorities posted Rangers around the Lal Haveli in Rawalpindi to protect it from the wrath of Pindiites.

140% turnout in Karachi

PPP and PML-N has demanded the results of Karachi to be canceled as up to 140% turnout has been reported at some polling stations. They said that the Karachi was held hostage under MQM and up to 65,000 votes were casted in areas where previously not more than 4,000 votes were casted earlier.

PMLN and PPP also said that they have collected proofs of rigging.

More reports of rigging can be seen at:

It is really impressive that the opposition was still able to win amidst all this rigging.

In other news, Sheikh Rashid, has left Pakistan after being humiliated in these elections. He lost both his seats, one by a margin of about 46,000 and the other by a margin of 62,000 votes. Last time he was elected from both. News report can be seen below. Let's see how many of the Q-Leaguers will flee the country (to join Shaukat Aziz) and how many will join the opposition.

The hands that help you vote, can't rock the ballot

Urooj Zia
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Karachi: At least 100,000 eligible voters in the city were not able to cast their votes on Monday merely because they had been appointed as presiding officers, assistant presiding officers, polling officers and district returning officers (DROs) at polling stations that were far away from their home constituencies. This number also includes the 27,000 policemen and 10,000 Rangers personnel who were called up for election duty in order to maintain peace during the polling process in the city on February 18.
On Monday, approximately 3,487 polling stations had been set up in Karachi. Each polling station had, on average, four polling booths (the actual number varied between two booths to eight booths per polling station). One presiding officer, one assistant presiding officer, and two polling officers – one each for the national assembly seat and the provincial assembly seat – had been appointed at each polling booth.
All of these government officials had, however, been deputed at polling stations that were far away from the stations where they were supposed to cast their own votes. "I've been on election duty for the past 17 years," one official at a polling station for NA-253 said. "I'm always deputed to stations that are far away from my house. Our duty at the polling stations that we're deputed to starts at 08:00 a.m. and goes on beyond 05:00 p.m. [until the votes are counted and the results announced]. Polling times at the stations that we're supposed to cast our votes at are also from 08:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. Therefore, even though I've been working to ensure that polling goes smoothly, I myself have never been able to vote."
Similar sentiments were echoed by most polling officials deputed at other stations in the city. A female presiding officer at a polling booth in North Nazimabad told The News that she was a lecturer at a government university, and had done her best to make sure that all her students voted on February 18. On polling day, however, she herself was stuck miles away from her home constituency.
Law-enforcement officials that The News spoke to on Monday also lamented the fact that they were not able to vote. 'We've been on duty since 04:00 a.m. We wanted to vote, but can't, because we're still on duty and can't leave our posts,' a group of policemen said at around 02:00 p.m.
"The government should set up a method for proxy voting for us," one presiding officer said. "This way we'll be able to accomplish the duties assigned to us on polling day, as well as exercise our Constitutional right to vote."


Beena Sarwar

KARACHI, Feb 19 (IPS) - With unofficial results for Pakistan's general elections heralding major upsets for President Pervez Musharraf's allies, the message was loud and clear: despite the pre-poll manipulations and irregularities voters have rejected the politics of hate and religious extremism.
Though final results are yet to be announced, the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N), led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated on Dec. 27, have emerged as the two largest parties -- routing the pro-Musharraf, Pakistan Muslim League - Quaid (PML-Q).
Sharif and Asif Zardari, widower of Bhutto and leader of the PPP, are now discussing the possibility of forming a coalition government.
Some 45.6 percent of the electorate turned out to vote, according to the Election Commission (EC), confounding predictions of poor voter turnout expected due to the high levels of pre-poll violence coupled with the move by several political parties to boycott the polls.
The elections have been unprecedented on many counts. The election schedule was announced on Nov. 20 during the emergency rule imposed by Musharraf, then army chief as well as president. On Nov. 3, 2007, Musharraf essentially conducted a coup against himself, commented Mohammed Hanif, head of the BBC Urdu service at the time: "Faced with increasing demands to give up his position as military chief and confront the complexities of civilian rule, Gen. Musharraf decided to topple President Musharraf."
Musharraf had initially indicated that the elections would be held under emergency rule but faced with intense international and domestic pressure, he lifted the emergency on Dec. 15, but not before he had taken oath as a civilian president and made as many as 15 amendments to the constitution that gave this office more powers.
Musharraf also sacked nearly 60 members of the higher judiciary, including Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar M. Chaudhry, because they refused to endorse the emergency and were known to be opposed to his election as president while still army chief. Sharif and other politicians have said that the prime objective of the new government would be to reinstate the sacked judges.
Citing widespread irregularities and manipulations by the ruling party, organisations like the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan announced that there was no point in monitoring the polls. The Citizens Group for Electoral Process gave the pre-poll process an overall score of 26 on a scale of 100 in terms of fairness.
Despite, or perhaps because of these manipulations, Monday's polls were the most scrutinised in Pakistan's history, drawing an unprecedented number of international observers -- over 500. They included three prominent United States senators, Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with senior panel members John Kerry and Chuck Hagel.
Speaking with the BBC's Lyse Doucet on Feb. 19 in Islamabad, Kerry expressed his "admiration for Pakistani voters," who have spoken, he said, "powerfully and forcefully", going to the polls despite the pre-poll violence and loss of lives.
Doucet, no stranger to Pakistan, is among the over 700 foreign journalists who have landed here for the elections. Immigration authorities set up separate counters to facilitate the foreign media at Pakistan's international airports some days before the polls.
In addition, for the first time, the elections were held under the spotlight of over 40 privately-owned television channels. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and other organisations, like Human Rights Watch, had in the run up to the elections expressed anxiety about how much freedom the electronic media would be allowed.
Musharraf's six-week emergency rule from Nov. 3 was accompanied by a blackout of all independent news channels. They were allowed back on air only under a restrictive code of conduct imposed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority. Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, PML-N's Sharif lauded journalists for covering the election campaigns risking their lives, and despite the restrictions.
A day before the elections, Attorney General Malik Qayyum had termed these restrictions as "illegal". He was addressing a press conference at which he denied that it was his voice admitting that the polls would be "massively rigged" on the audio tape recording released recently by the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Although the PPP and PML-N have emerged with a thumping majority according to the unofficial results, observers point out that this happened despite the pre-poll manipulations that had been documented earlier.
Talking to Geo News on Tuesday morning, as the results were still coming in, the routed former chief minister of Punjab and provincial president of the PML-Q Choudhry Parvaiz Elahi, who won one of the three National Assembly seats he was contesting, said he accepted his party's defeat.
"Not all the results are in yet," he added. "We are confident that we will still win some more." Sure enough, the last few results to come in did push the PML-Q to a better position.
The delays in reporting the results of some key constituencies aroused some suspicion. "They wanted to hold back the results of several seats," said Nawaz Sharif in his press conference, citing delayed results where his party eventually lost by narrow margins.
Many voters could not find their names on the electoral list, while others whose names were listed were prevented from voting. Amiruddin Channa, who came to Karachi from Dadu in interior Sindh 22 years ago, told IPS that he had been trying to find his name on the voters' list since morning. The 65-year-old retired senior government official's wife and daughter's names were finally located and they cast their votes.
"But the polling officer told me my vote was in Dadu although I saw it on the list here. I have also served as a presiding official, but we dealt with cases judiciously. The presiding officer here refused to take a stand. When I insisted on my right to vote, a goonda (hooligan) there became very threatening, so I left," Channa told IPS. "I'm a pensioner, I have high blood pressure, it doesn't make a difference to me whether the PPP comes to power or whoever. I'm never voting again."
Several other incidents of vote manipulation, violence and loss of lives, were reported around the country.
Political science professor Sahar Shafqat also points to "the massive systematic disenfranchisement of women," noting that women were barred from voting in several districts in NWFP. "But maybe more serious is that women are simply missing from the electoral rolls. Since the rolls are based on the national identity cards which many women simply don't have or are barred from obtaining, they are severely underrepresented in the lists."
IPS obtained several eye-witness accounts of ballot papers being illegally stamped and stuffed at polling stations around Karachi, the stronghold of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (United National Movement or MQM).
"I myself stamped two ballots for MQM," Javed (real name withheld) told IPS. "The boys came at 8 am to take people out to vote. They returned at 10 am and took me along for elections 'work'. I went into four polling stations with them in our area."