A further comment on Pakistani politics

October 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

I hope the last post was taken in the spirit it was intended. I do not mean to suggest that Pakistan is not a functioning democracy, or that political parties in Pakistan are just ideal-less empty vessels. Neither of these things are the case, the situation is far more complicated than that, and there are some truly extraordinary Pakistani politicians.

However, it is important to understand the challenges under which Pakistani politics operates. Take the election commission: they are tasked with running elections across 800,000 square miles – parts of which are active warzones – and amongst nearly a  quarter of a billion people.  There are some extraordinary people involved. There are also some right dullards. Here, because I think it would be informative, is a conversation I had with an election commissioner in Pakistan recently. For their sake I won’t say where or when, and I certainly don’t mean to imply all election commissioners are like this. And no, we weren’t this blunt with each other, but my notes are not verbatim and the following is the gist of what was said.

Me: do you supervise elections?

Election Commsioner: I’m not sure: sometimes we do, sometimes the judiciary do it.

Me: Will you supervise the next set?

EC: I don’t know.

Me: Would you say the last set of elections were free and fair?

EC: That’s not really our role so I wouldn’t know. There were some monitoring teams who we tried to help as I am helping you.

Me: Were there any problems with the last set of elections?

EC: There might have been, but if they were they got sorted out without anyone bothering us

Me: Do you think brokers or middlemen play a powerful role in elections?

EC: That’s not really our role so I wouldn’t know. The police look into that sort of thing

Me: What was the turnout of the last election?

EC: That’s not really our role so we don’t keep any record of turnout.

Me: What were the results of the last election?

EC: That’s not really our role so we don’t keep any record of the result.

Me: What were the rules under which the election was fought?

EC: The rules change all the time so we don’t keep any record of them.

Me: What are the constituency boundaries around here?

EC: We don’t keep any record of that, we don’t need them for what we do?

Me: What do you do?

EC avoids question, offers me coffee. Finally suggests that all these things may be recorded and decided somewhere else and then they send out instructions which this office just follows.

Me: And how do you do that without maps, without voting list, without rules without any idea of turnout or expected results?

EC: Well it’s always the same as last-time so we just take the maps and lists and things from last-time and update them as we need.

Me: And where are the maps and lists and things from last time?

EC: I don’t know, you might be able to buy them in the Bazaar.

At this point my notes descend into a scribble which I think says “bloody useless git”.

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