Towards a democratic culture
ISLAMABAD, Nov 18: As media teams reached Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf’s (PTI) polling station in Karachi company, they were greeted by enthusiastic members of the party, who had gathered to cast their votes.
Interestingly, polling stations also provided an opportunity to party workers to lodge their complaints.
“I had to charge my balance, in a bid to cast my vote but getting through the line is still a problem,” said a PTI worker, at the camp.
But gradually all the complainants settled down as Javed Hashmi, President PTI, in his traditional soft-tone spoke to the party members and the media, acknowledging a few bottlenecks in the system.
“But this is how we move ahead. We come across hurdles and we overcome them,” Mr Hashmi assured, “this is a new system imported from the USA and it is for the first time that any party is making use of this technology.”
Mr Hashmi claimed that despite such a strong tradition of democracy in India, none of the political parties there had used an electronic voting system.
“This is not just a union council level election. These people will elect the district and regional leadership for Islamabad and the process will move on, ultimately to elect the Chairman of the party,” he added.
The bottlenecks and lacunas faced in the first phase of intra-party elections held by the PTI are expected to be rectified, when the second phase of elections are held in the coming weeks.
The party is scheduled to elect grassroot level leadership for the entire Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa province, to be followed by Punjab.
“By that time we will clear all the issues that are propping up now,” said Hamid Khan, senior vice president of PTI, “One complain that we received today was choking of telephone lines. In the next phase we will get more lines.”
Though, holding intra-party elections is a mandatory requirement made by the Election Commission of Pakistan, but only the Jamaat-i- Islami has a track record in this regard and the PTI has taken a lead by introducing an electronic casting system.
However, independent experts seem less impressed, convener of Fafen, Muddasar Rizvi said that the main office bearers were elected indirectly and only the district level office bearers were elected by the workers.
“But there will be some pressure on other parties to hold internal elections, after this,” he added.
The PTI believes that their intra-party level elections would lead to internal pressures from the workers of other parties to hold elections.
The idea of holding intra-party elections has been acknowledged by a Pakistan People’s Party official, who said that in principal, all the political parties should hold genuine internal elections.
“We held our first party convention in 1968 in Hala, Sindh, but the situation took a different turn. Even then we held our last intra-party elections in 1989,” said Chaudhry Manzoor, former MNA and head of PPP’s labour wing.
However, he added that his party was in the process of organising the units – which is the lowest level in the party’s hierarchy: “But it is to be seen if it can be completed before the general elections.”
On the other hand, the major political party of the region, the PML-N, have rejected the PTI move.
The PML-N has the highest number of MNAs and MPAs in Rawalpindi and won both the national assembly seats from the federal capital.
Dr Chaudhry Tariq Fazal, MNA from NA-49 Islamabad, said that office bearers are appointed by the party leadership through a system.
“This system is indirect elections – as competent persons are only elected as office bearers. We cannot just allow anybody to hold the district slot,” he said, adding, “But we do not hold this procedure in front of the media.”
He also said that the system of using mobile phones and SMS for electing local leadership is neither that transparent nor practically viable one.
The PTI invested around $0.5 million on the software to conduct the intra-party elections and arrangements were made to monitor the results live at the central office of the party, in Islamabad.
Under the system, all registered members of the party, whose mobile numbers and CNIC numbers are already enlisted, would have to call any of the two UAN numbers and cast their votes through SMS, after following the instructions.