Monthly Archives: August 2012

Enigma of voters’ list

By: Zubeida Mustafa

PRIME Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has said that fair and free elections offer the only way out of the present constitutional crisis. He is right, but only if the elections are truly fair and free.

Given the state of the recently released electoral rolls it is difficult to believe that the exercise will be flawless. No one doubts the integrity of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Fakhruddin Ebrahim, who has an impeccable reputation. But how much can he do? The mantle of the CEC has fallen on his shoulders so late in the day. I.A. Rehman of the HRCP had a point when he reminded us that authentic electoral rolls are basic to adult franchise. The numbers game is baffling and political parties are disinterested.

A look at the numbers is quite instructive. After five revision-free years, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has told us that there are 84.4 million registered voters in the country. It must be remembered that just the sum total — produced by a lot of additions and subtractions by Nadra on the basis of CNICs — does not ensure that the lists are perfect. Even addresses have to be correct. Within 10 days of the release of the rolls 560,000 people in Sindh alone had sought corrections in their entries. That is just the beginning.

This was inevitable. We are operating in a grey area. With the last census having been held in 1998 and the one thereafter being abandoned in 2011 after the house count became controversial, one cannot even quote our population size with a credible degree of accuracy. So how can one be sure about the number of missing voters? How are they to be traced now?

Annual revisions of the electoral rolls have never taken place as stipulated by the law, even though the ECP has been in existence throughout. Nadra’s database provides a baseline, but some kind of physical checks are essential. We know how faulty our birth and death registration system is. One senator has raised the issue of 15 million dead voters. The figure might be a guesstimate, but the point she makes is correct. A friend confirmed that his checks showed four of his deceased relatives are registered as voters.

That is not the only flaw. Technical glitches abound. As a test case I text-messaged four CNIC numbers to the ECP’s voter verification service. Two of them gave the locality where the holder of the card was registered as a voter quite far removed from what was recorded on the CNIC. An ECP official himself admitted that 80,000 Karachi voters were transferred to Balochistan due to some technical error. How many such errors will be discovered in time to be corrected?

When the figures run into millions the whole election exercise assumes a daunting dimension. But it has to be addressed.

This poses a dilemma for the ECP. The best approach would have been if the process of enrolling voters as originally stipulated in the Electoral Rolls Act of 1974 and the rules framed under it had been strictly followed. Rule 17 lays down that every year the electoral rolls are to be revised and corrected. The procedure prescribed was as elaborate as that of preparing fresh rolls. This entailed total coverage of all residential units in the country by the enumeration staff for distribution and collection of application forms for enrolment and checks by supervisory staff.

In 1990, it was decided to simplify the revision procedure as it was found to be cumbersome and expensive. The existing electoral rolls were published as draft rolls and amendments and objections were invited. This would have worked to an extent if checks on the ground had been carried out.

Democracy was never taken seriously and so the need for authentic electoral lists was never felt. The whole issue was treated cavalierly. Thus in 2000 Nadra was inducted into the voter registration process, but being new to the game its lists were found to be ‘cumbersome’. Most importantly, they were not compiled after a door-to-door enumeration but prepared on the basis of the 1998 census forms. There were 71.8 million voters who were registered, and their details were recorded electronically and the 2002 elections were held on the basis of these details.

Then came 2005, when it was decided to computerise the lists after a door-to-door survey, which was not very efficiently done in 2006. The task of feeding the data into a computerised system was not very transparent. Entrusted to a US-based organisation with the help of USAID for $9.5m, the process was not open to scrutiny and only the American ambassador was allowed to see it. Nadra was kept out of this exercise, although by then it had a growing database. As a result only 52.1 million voters were registered in 2007, which showed a huge shortfall. The Supreme Court intervened and the ECP included the missing names from the 2002 list and the voters’ strength shot up to 81 million.

Unfortunately, no attempt was made to revise this list as should have been done under the law. Five years is a long enough period to have door-to-door enumeration and computerise the data. What now? It is a positive sign that the ECP has announced that corrections and entries will be entertained till the polling schedule is announced. But for that we need massive mobilisation of the voters and a staff to check their entries.

Only political parties can persuade voters to take an interest in the lists. Will they? They do not even seem to understand the implications of flawed lists for democracy.

The article was originally carried on writer’s site:


Pakistan: The Hope Lives On…..

A Pakpotpourri Exclusive

By:Waheed Hamid

Not all that Pakistan has today speaks of dooms day but a lot is there to cherish, its only the optimistic eye which seems missing. Stories of  a  collapsing state ,  Taliban ruling  Islamabad and  taking control of  country’s nuclear weapons to threaten the world are not old but time has proved them to be far from TRUTH. The truth of brilliant upcoming generation in form of nine year old Arfa Karim and eight year old Uzair Jaswal beating Microsoft experts some where remain on the low burner. The failing infrastructure and absence of good governance,  corruption cases, prolonged electricity shutdowns, declining economic and social indicators have  further added strength to the gloomy  perceptions. How many have really researched to find truth remains a simmering question. In 2006, 30 terrorist attacks, including 10 of a sectarian nature, took place, leaving 100 people dead and 230 others injured. In 2007, 34 terrorist attacks and clashes, including suicide attacks, killings, and assassinations, resulted in 134 casualties and 245 injuries, according to the PIPS security report. Pakistan faced 20 suicide attacks (mostly targeted at security forces) during 2007, at least 111 were killed, besides injuring another 234 people. The statistics show a progressive increase in extremist activities starting from 2006 and sudden decline in the recent  years.  Pakistan’s Taliban seized control of Swat and challenged the writ of the government outside FATA in 2009. The Taliban further increased their influence towards a district in the country’s northwest just 70 miles from the capital after consolidating their hold on the Swat Valley. The picture was so bleak that at one point, the ANP-led coalition government seriously considered to relocate its provincial capital from Peshawar to the northern city of Abbottabad.  Peshawar was virtually under siege from three sides, Darra Adamkhel to the south, Mohmand tribal region to the north and Khyber Agency`s Bara sub-district to the west. The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in testimony before a House committee that the Taliban advance poses “an existential threat”  However, government’s decision and push of Pakistan army under General Kayani into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the Swat Valley put pressure on the insurgents toward the end of the year, tamping down militant activity and forcing them to relocate. The success of Swat operation and settlement of displaced people of Swat became role model for the society and the environment was shaped in favour of government . The military pressure dislodged the (terror) groups from some of their training areas and kept them on the run. The violence fell by 60 per cent in the second half of 2009, compared with the first half. Overall the sense of security in Pakistan improved. In IRI polls the number of people saying that they felt less secure fell from 78 percent to 60 percent in the March 2009 poll, while the number saying that they felt more secure rose from 19 to 38 percent. This was further augmented by a survey of  Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) which said the number of violent incidents and terror attacks in Pakistan fell by 11 per cent during 2010, compared to 2009.

On the nuclear issue Pakistan went under tremendous global pressure after AQ Khan was perceived to have links with a nuclear  proliferation  supply group. The ten member National Command Authority (NCA), led by the president (with the prime minister as its vice chairman),  Strategic Plan Division (SPD), the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) which  controls, regulates, and supervises all matters related to nuclear safety and radiation protection in Pakistan geared up their safety measure. The  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to admit to an audience that “the nuclear arsenal that Pakistan has, I believe, is secure. I think the government and the military have taken adequate steps to protect that”. Pakistan successfully entered space with help of China and Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) brought sea change in capabilities of the nation.  Politically, after a gap of 13 years, the federal and all provincial governments agreed on the  7th  NFC Award, In the last two years alone, over 800 billion rupees have additionally been transferred to the provinces. The biggest beneficiary of this Award has been Balochistan which got 100% increase in its share from the divisible pool. The stock market has begun to improve. The index has crossed 13000, compared to around 7000 in 2009. This may be a step towards  hope and change about which  most of Pakistanis remain ignorant .

But why do they remain ignorant is a question which must be answered. The  economics of a common man remains a basic unresolved  issue.  Polls and survey may not provide the exact picture but they do reflect a trend. An IRI’s polling of few years back indicates that  economic issues are the top concern of Pakistanis. When asked what  the most important issue facing the country was, a total of 77 percent of the population cited  an economic issue as their top priority, which was  consistent with previous polls and continues to be  a reality today.  A Gallup Poll conducted in December 2008, before the political crisis, found nearly 4 in 10 Pakistanis (38%) dissatisfied with the way democracy works in their country .   Two-thirds of residents said in a Gallup polls in 2008  that the leadership of Pakistan was taking the country in the wrong direction, while just 10% said it was leading it in the right direction. One challenge for Zardari may be that of setting National priorities. Robert I. Rotberg wrote in  “When States Fail: Causes and Consequences”  that weak states (or states in crisis) typically harbor ethnic, religious, linguistic, or other tensions… Urban crime rates tend to be high and increasing. … Schools and hospitals show sign of neglect, … . GDP per capita and other critical economic indicators have fallen or are falling… . Weak states usually honor rule of law precepts in the breach.” As per these criterions, Pakistan is a weak state but the Nation has  proved its  potentials  to  show the sunshine in the darkness. This all does hint at an important facet  missing  in  our Nation  ‘The National PRIORTIES’. The nation must prioritize to vote for the kind of leadership they want and the leaders must work in a system to understand these  priorities for which they have been selected . The  deliverance by the leaders will always be judged in line with priorities and provide HOPE  to Pakistanis, the most important element required by any progressing nation .


Afghan End Game – Closing the Loop!

A Pakpotpourri Exclusive

By: Imran Malik


The operational and decisive stage of the Afghan endgame has arrived. The US seeks a unique balance in its exit strategy. It wants to egress the South-Central Asian Region (SCAR) and Af-Pak Region (APR) but without losing any of its hegemonic dominance and control in any/all of its dimensions – geo-political/strategic/economic.

It has now set about to create its desired strategic environment in the APR upto and beyond 2014. To this end it is using a combination of willing NATO/ISAF and Afghan allies like the Northern Alliance, forthcoming (extra) regional allies like India and bludgeoning some reluctant ones like Pakistan into playing their assigned roles to this end.

What will the then obtaining strategic environment portend for Pakistan and the rest of the world. There are many dimensions to this emerging strategic scenario but of utmost import is the Militants Factor which needs to be addressed and resolved pre-2014 – on the negotiating table, on the battlefield or through a combination of both! The zenith of statecraft and diplomacy, however, would be achieving the strategic objectives without resorting to war.

The US will be repeating its mistakes of 1989 if it abandons the Af-Pak Region (APR) without responsibly managing the projected aftermath of its gross (mis)adventure there and without enforcing a sustainable long term solution to the militancy imbroglio.

Post 1989 the world witnessed that the Mujahideen who actually defeated the Soviets were left in the lurch to rue their choice of allies! No efforts were made by the Free World to settle them and the region down once the Soviets had withdrawn. Where were they to go? What were they to do? How were they to be rehabilitated? How were they to be neutralized, disarmed and peacefully re-employed? How was the overall aftermath of the Soviet Union’s withdrawal in all its gargantuan dimensions to be managed? Did the APR need to be revived economically, then?

The criminal abandonment of Pakistan and the Mujahideen was total, brutal, ruthless and downright arrogant.

The US-led West had failed (deliberately – ?) to close the loop, to bring that expedition to its logical closure!!

Then to add insult to injury they clamped economic and military sanctions/embargoes on Pakistan for her nuclear programme – effectively taking away from her the capacity to deal with the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from the APR and the US’ abandonment of its peoples.

Brutus, by comparison, might have been far kinder to Caeser as he might have at least felt some remorse as he stabbed his friend in the back!!

And this environment prevailed till Al Qaeda and the Taliban surfaced on the global scene and the remnants of these Mujahideen joined cause with them!

Is this going to be an historical deja vu?

If the US-led West (and Pakistan) does not pacify/neutralize the militants, here and now, they will  confront them, again, elsewhere in the region/world!

What options do the militants have? Will they just give up their militancy just because the US/NATO/ISAF Combine plans to leave, partially? They will have no option but to continue with their militancy. The US/NATO/ISAF’s paradigm shift from a strategy of counter insurgency to counter terrorism means that even if the militants foreswear terror and go back to their villages what do they have to look forward to? Nothing! There is no future there!

These militant groups will feel compelled to expand their sphere of influence. They will certainly move against the US-led West’s Afghan bases. They will also turn inwards to activate the inner Pakistani and Afghan fronts even attempting to snatch power. They will become easy prey to hostile foreign intelligence agencies which will exploit them for their own ulterior motives in the APR and beyond. Further, they might re-ignite the currently dormant but very sensitive Muslim issues of Kashmir and Palestine. They will also venture into the simmering hotspots in the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, the Mediterranean Region or infiltrate into Europe and even continental USA. They have a global reach and plenty of incentives and resources. So the options are numerous for them and each and every one of them needs to be considered and forestalled. Better to circumscribe their reach now and pacify/neutralize them while we still have time.

Pakistan and the US/NATO/ISAF Combine need to re-assess the strategic environment that beckons in the SCAR-APR. Both sides will have to negotiate as allies who need to win the GWOT – together. Serious issues like drone attacks, operations against the HN and militants in the Afghan Provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, IEDs etc must, of necessity, constitute the essential parts of a joint approach to defeat/pacify the militants either on the negotiating table or the battlefield or both.

Have Pakistan and the US/NATO/ISAF Combine missed the opportunity to pacify/neutralize the militants one way or the other? Are they already late in time and space?

The US yet must revise its strategy for the APR and allow Pakistan the major role in the region. Pakistan is the key to every solution in this region. In the remaining two and a half years to the end of 2014 it must build up Pakistan’s political, military and economic clout in the region. It must not allow an anti-Pakistan political dispensation in Afghanistan or undue Indian influence there. Further US and Pakistan must take the lead and involve the SCO and Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours into finding a workable practical regional solution to the militancy and terrorism. Furthermore, the US-led West will have to bring in a “real” Marshall Plan, (as opposed to the Tokyo Conference) in “real-time” for the APR to create the environment for the militants to move back to a more peaceful life, country, region and world!!

If the US-led West does not close the loop, again, then for sure they will face these militants, again, elsewhere in the world!


The author is a retired Brigadier and a former Defence Attaché to Australia and New Zealand.


The US Treats Pakistan Like An Occupied Country

By: Eric Margolis

WASHINGTON – I was visiting Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States when the phone on his desk rang.

“The hot line,” he said. “Sorry I have to take this call.”

As he listened, his face grew darker and darker. Finally, he banged down the phone and exploded: “Another US drone attack that killed a score of our people. We were never warned the attack was coming. We are supposed to be US allies!”

This strongly pro-American ambassador was wrong. While the US hails Pakistan as a key non-NATO ally, the US treats it like a militarily occupied country. The government in Islamabad is left to observe increasing drone attacks and CIA ground operation with deepening embarrassment and helplessness.

Average Pakistanis have no doubt about what’s happening. Most believe their nation was more or less occupied by the US after the 2001 attacks on the US.

The Pakistani leader who allowed this to happen, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has admitted that the US put a gun to his head and demanded he allow the US to use Pakistan’s army, air bases, ports, intelligence service, logistics, and air space – or face war. Musharraf quickly caved in to the US ultimatum, something a tough predecessor, Gen. Zia ul-Haq, would have surely rejected.

As US drone attacks intensify in Pakistan’s tribal belt and inside Afghanistan, the government of President Asif Ali Zardari, which was engineered into power by Washington and sustained by US dollars, keeps imploring the US to halt the attacks that are enraging Pakistanis. Senior Pakistani diplomats have been warning that the drone strikes that have so far killed 2,500-3,000, mostly civilians, are fuelling extremist groups in Pakistan and humiliating its armed forces.

No one in Washington is listening. Islamabad’s attempted to show some independence by halting US-NATO truck convoys from Karachi to Afghanistan for seven months after a deadly US air attack last November that killed 25 Pakistani soldiers.

But the blockade was recently lifted after $1 billion of American aid to Islamabad was unfrozen. The dollars are flowing again – many of them right back out into Swiss, Dubai or Singapore bank accounts.

Anti-American feelings in Pakistan have been soaring. Some polls show over 90% of respondents expressing hatred or anger against the US. These public sentiments have been worsened by more loose talk by Republicans in Washington about seizing Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, making Pakistan’s province of Baluchistan a separate state, or putting Pakistan on America’s terrorist list.

There are even rumbles from the far right and pro-Israel neocons about attacking Pakistan. America’s failing war in Afghanistan is being blamed on the Pakistan-backed Haqqani group which is also ironical since during my days in Afghanistan in the 1980’s, Haqqani was a favorite of CIA.

Washington’s not so discreet threats of punishment have abated for the moment thanks to the mess in Syria and rising threat of war against Iran. But Pakistan remains a potent generator for anti-American jihadist sentiment, and for rising anti-Muslim sentiment in America.

Ironically, the US went to war in Afghanistan to supposedly punish anti-American groups, yet now ends up creating ten times more enemies in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the truck craziness has reared its head again. Supply trucks for US and NATO forces are backed up at Pakistani border crossing points because supposedly because of security threats.

Trucking supplies into northern Afghanistan via the Black Sea, Russia, and Central Asia has been costing the US $100 million monthly at a time when 44 million Americans live below the poverty level. Flying supplies and munitions from the US to Afghanistan costs ten times more than ground transport.

On top of this, Taliban and its allies are annoyed that the truck convoys have stopped. Why? Because they were being paid off millions more of baksheesh by the US to let the convoys pass.

Talks this past week in Washington between CIA chief David Petraeus and Pakistan’s new intelligence director, Lt. Gen. Zahir ul-Islam were said to be cordial but not 6discernably productive. Nor were talks between top Pakistani and US generals. Diplomats seem to have dropped out of the picture.
Note:The article appeared on writer’s blog under the title,”Drone Attacks Generate Enemies for US”