DailyTimes | Election follies

The general elections in May 2013 were the first to transfer power from one elected government to another in Pakistan. In a country where the struggle for democracy has been long, hard and bloody, this was no mean achievement. The usual allegations of rigging in the 2013 elections were largely ignored this time. The Election Commission of Pakistan may have senselessly used Article 62 and 63 of the constitution to reject many candidates, but even this did not detract from the historic import of this election. Articles 62 and 63 allow only an honest person of good character to become a member of parliament and reject dual nationals or those dangerous to the security, public order or integrity of Pakistan. Ironically, those who camouflaged their true face by using fake identities, such as Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi of the erstwhile Sipah-e-Sahaba did, were allowed to contest. Today Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi, who camouflaged himself as a candidate of a spurious Pakistan Rah-i-Haq Party, has become a member of the National Assembly thanks to an election tribunal unseating the winning candidate of the PML-N for being a loan defaulter. The question arises, how had a person heading a banned organization, the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, the reinvented banner of the Sipahe-Sahaba after it was banned, been allowed to contest elections in the first place? It is public knowledge who he is and which party he leads. How then had the leader of a banned party well known for sectarian violence on more than one occasion slipped through the electoral scrutiny net? Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi had been arrested in March 2012 from Islamabad on an FIR registered against him for violating Section 144. This Section allows the government to act immediately to halt any activity that poses a threat to health, safety or public order. Soon after his arrest, his friends amongst the Defence of Pakistan Council’s leaders succeeded in getting him released.

Did the Election Commission of Pakistan deliberately overlook the component parties of the Muttahida Deeni Mahaz, an alliance of five politico-religious parties, being used as a cover by banned organizations such as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat? Or was it merely an error of judgment? Either way it is the Election Commission of Pakistan and the election tribunal in question that stand in the dock for allowing people like Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi to enter parliament without proper scrutiny or even a murmur of protest.*