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All Claims Need To Be Backed By Circumstantial Evidence

It will be a national tragedy if the general elections, scheduled to be held on the 8th of January 2008, are not held. But a much greater tragedy will occur if these elections are held in such a way that their results become questionable and subsequently are challenged. Even though President General Musharraf and the Honourable Chief Election Commissioner have been leaving no stone unturned in coming out with firm and emphatic assurances that the scheduled elections are going to be completely free, fair and transparent, the ground realities happen to be making a mockery of these assurances. With a hand-picked Election Commission, with a hand-picked Judiciary, with the infinite ability to ‘coerce’ that the Emergency gives, and with as high stakes in the continuity of the outgoing administration and setup as are visible – the Government of President Musharraf will have to acquire the angel-like attributes of infallibility in order to refrain from using these advantages to its advantage.
And even if these angel-like qualities are acquired, the presence of circumstantial evidence – pointing to the likelihood of foul-play is unlikely not to bring the whole electoral exercise into question and disrepute. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has already charged that she has reliable information to the effect that 108 PML-Q candidates in Punjab are to be ‘gifted’ with 25000 ballot papers each, in advance to ensure their success. This is quite clearly an aspersion on the Election Commission which is seen by the opposition as an arm of the ruling party.
The Election Commission has not done itself any great service by hastening to announce that the last date of filing papers will be the 26th of November 2007 – i.e four days from the time you read these lines. With all the major parties still to show their satisfaction over the electoral arrangements, and to announce their willingness to participate in the elections, the announcement of such a jet-paced schedule is nothing if not a laughable exercise in playing innocent and unconcerned.
The Election Commission should certainly not behave in a manner as though its job is to put its stamp on the re-election of the incumbents. One hopes that by the end of this week, President Pervez Musharraf would have removed all visible obstacles and impediments in the way of creation of environments really conducive to the holding of truly fair, truly free and truly unquestionable polls.

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