The threat of violence has long loomed over the May 11 Pakistan elections but it seems that rigging has been an even larger and more dangerous evil for the country's democratic process. Although Pakistan's Election Commission (ECP) had made broad promises of fair and free elections with the help of social media, it has become apparent that the ECP has fallen extremely short on its promises, as rigging and a severe lack of transparency — most prominently seen in Karachi than anywhere else — has marred the election process.
A prime example of the ECP's failure is NA-250 in Karachi, where voters have been standing in a line since early morning to vote. Now, as election day comes to a close, they still have not been able to vote — and much of the blame falls to the Mutahida Quami Movement (MQM) party, one of two parties running in the constituency. First, there were no ballots present, and then a staff to preside over the election was not present. According to many, MQM, who usually has an easy time gaining majority votes in the constituency, has purposefully and methodologically created hindrances for voters as they feared losing one of their strong-holds to a popular Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf candidate, Dr. Arif Alvi. In a press conference, Alvi said that despite many complaints of fraud, there was no rapid response from anyone — not the Karachi law enforcement nor the army. There have also been accusations that pre-stamped ballots were being submitted, making it impossible for people to vote for PTI even if they tried.
Another PTI candidate, Ali Zaidi, complained that in his constituency, NA-252, the MQM party had rigged the polls there as well.
In an email, Zaidi told me that just as in his constituency, "Armed MQM goons took over other polling stations in sensitive areas as well. Army personnel were sitting like fools outside. Either the ECP is incompetent or involved in this rigging."
Moreover, a video from a polling site in Hyderabad went viral, showing multiple MQM workers illegally stuffing ballot boxes.
There have also been a number of other rigging incidences caught on video being shared around the country.
MQM isn't the only party involved in rigging the elections, however. PML-N candidate Saad Rafique has been accused of forcibly shutting doors at his polling site in NA-125, stamping ballots for his own party. Apparently, the police in this case also just sat and watched the show.
The ECP has taken notice of the rigging and has admitted to failure in Karachi especially. And while a simple solution would be to disqualify all candidates caught rigging elections — especially the ones caught on video — the ECP has not yet decided what steps will be taken to remedy the situation.