Clip_13January 18, 1937: Punjab Legislative Election. The Muslim League led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the National Unionist Party led by Sir Sikandar Hyat Khan. Poling began and continued for ten days. Jatts, Rajputs and Arains were told not to vote for Jinnah’s Muslim League.

Election results: Unionist Party, 98. Muslim League, 2 (Raja Ghazanfar Ali and Malik Barkat Ali). After the election, Raja Ghazanfar Ali joined the Unionist Party and the Muslim League was left with just one member. Imagine, Jatts, Rajputs and Arains managed to beat Jinnah’s Muslim League.

Election results from 1977, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997 and 2002: Election data from constituencies in Faisalabad from elections held in 1977, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997 and 2002 shows that all the winning candidates in all the seven elections were Jatts, Rajputs, Arains, Kharals or Baloch (original research done by Dr Mughees Ahmed in ‘Voting behaviour in rural and urban areas of Punjab’).

2008-2013: Almost all law-making undertaken by the National Assembly benefited or protected the president, the PM, governors, CMs, 342 members of the National Assembly, 104 senators or 714 members of the four provincial assemblies. Next to nothing for the voters.

Election results 2013: The PTI got 7,679,954 votes and won 35 seats – that converts to 219,427 votes per seat. The PML-N got 14,874,104 votes and won 166 seats – that converts to 89,603 votes per seat. The PTI bagged 16.92 percent of votes and won 35 seats whereas PML-N bagged 32.77 percent of votes and won 166 seats. And the PPP won 45 seats with 6,911,218 votes (less than the PTI’s).

Conclusion: Pakistan’s electoral system is deeply, deeply flawed. Perhaps, not massively rigged but deeply flawed.

Suggested election reforms: The first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system with single member legislative districts must be reformed. The International Crisis Group’s recommendations: A neutral caretaker. Immediate posting of election results. Establish permanent polling stations. Timely disposition of petitions. Pildat’s recommendations: The Election Commission should ensure strict compliance of laws. Independence of polling staff. Training of returning officers. Training of polling agents. Regulating spending by candidates.

The PTI’s two choices: Go to the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms or build up public pressure for reforms through marches, rallies, sit-ins, picketing etc.

Reform dilemma: Genuine election reforms would mean potential losers and potential gainers. The rule of thumb is that as long as potential losers are also the principal decision makers they will not let reforms through. What that means is that, in all probability, the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms will not let genuine reforms through.

History of reforms: Holders of power and privileges, around the world, have never in history accepted reforms in absence of overwhelming public demand for reforms. Pakistani elections have remained deeply, deeply flawed because there has never been a strong enough demand for reforms. No demand, no supply.

Democracy has a body and a soul. We have the body – which is elections – but the soul – welfare of the voters – is missing. To be certain, Pakistanis are going nowhere without election reforms. And unless there is formidable public demand for election reforms, there shall be no supply.


Twitter: @saleemfarrukh