Fair Elections in Pakistan?

Fair Elections in Pakistan?
Photo source: EXPRESS/FILE


Eleni Patlaka

Pakistan Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence

In view of the upcoming elections on February 8, the Election Commission has decided not to allow the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to participate in the elections. The main reason was that the PTI had not conducted internal party elections, which is a prerequisite for participation in Pakistani elections (Shahzad, 2024). There was also opposition from independent MPs from Punjab as they were not given the 'arrow' symbol, which is the dominant symbol of the region (Pakistan Today, 2024a).

Why are symbols important?

Symbols are not only important but also essential for the smooth conduct of the electoral process. In elections, voters stamp the ballot paper with the symbol of their choice. The symbols issued by the electoral commission are accompanied by the names of the parties or independent candidates. For example, the PTI's symbol was a cricket bat, referring to Khan's status as a former captain of the national cricket team. However, the illiteracy rate in the country, which is as high as 40%, requires symbols to be available and known in order to vote correctly (Shahzad, 2024). The PTI spokesperson complains that the ban is against the constitution. Specifically, it undermines free and fair elections and allows unconstitutional governments to gain power (Pakistan Today, 2024b). 

In conclusion, it is necessary to respect the constitution and hold fair elections, giving freedom of choice to parties and parliamentary candidates. However, changing the ballots could delay the elections, creating even more problems in the political landscape of the country.

Sources and further readings:

Pakistan Today. (2024a). PPP demands ROs’ removal for ‘denying’ arrow symbol. [online] Available at: https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2024/01/16/ppp-demands-ros-removal-for-denying-arrow-symbol/.

Pakistan Today. (2024b). PTI reacts to PBC, SCBA statements on intra-party polls. [online] Available at: https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2024/01/16/pti-reacts-to-pbc-scba-statements-on-intra-party-polls/.

Shahzad, A. (2024). Why Pakistan election symbols are important. [online] Available at: https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/pakistan-election-symbols-their-importance-2024-01-16/.