Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed serious concern over systematic attempts to exclude candidates from elections and to sabotage people’s ability to elect candidates of their choice or to hold them to account.
In a statement issued by the HRCP Executive Council at the conclusion of its meeting on Saturday, the Commission said: “It is manifestly clear now that the latest process of scrutiny of candidates is a witchhunt aimed at harassing and humiliating candidates. It undermines the essence of what democracy entails and shows a complete lack of faith in the people’s right and ability to choose their representatives.
HRCP acknowledges the ability of the political governments to overcome the challenges thrown at them one after the other, including establishment of the caretaker set-up. However, where we stand today is in large measure the result of the political governments shying away from acknowledging overt interference in active politics by state institutions who had no business doing that. That is why the process today is subject to manipulation by a number of vested interests of non-representative groups, institutions and bodies.
The people of Pakistan can tell the difference between fair and puritanical elections. The ‘selection’ of candidates in the last few days also raises other, deeper questions. The completely arbitrary barring of candidates by returning officers at this scale cannot be without instructions and encouragement to take this tack. HRCP sees a clear and systematic sabotage of the democratic process to make the will of the people completely irrelevant. This deliberate and planned abuse of the process appears to be a bid to complete Zia-ul Haq’s agenda to accommodate extremism into mainstream politics and to thrust theocratic rule down people’s throats.
HRCP calls upon the political parties and the civil society to vigilantly guard against these latest attempts to liquidate democracy in Pakistan and resolutely reject any and all bids to delay elections under any pretext or to introduce unrepresentative rule. That would be exceedingly unwise and dangerous and something that Pakistan simply cannot afford at this juncture. HRCP also demands that the Election Commission intervenes to stop the asymmetric warfare on the electoral process.
HRCP also calls upon all political leadership to express their opinion openly on this devious plan of enforcing selective rule of a few so-called angels on Pakistan’s fate. The sole voice denouncing such tendency has come from the head of only one political party. Others too need to shed their fear and speak up at this critical moment.”