NA120 – Desperate Tactics by Deep State

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures — This is exactly what Deep State practiced in recent Lahore NA120 by-elections to suppress the mandate of people. The Deep State desperately attempted to manipulate the poll to build perception that people were standing by the Supreme Court after their dishonorable verdict against the of Prime Minister.

These tactics should be used as lesson for future elections by pro-democratic parties and shall be more vigilant to counter them during any future polls.

Pre-Poll Rigging

  • More than 40 candidates filed their nomination papers for NA120 by-election — This is the highest number of candidates who stood in a single by-election. The tactic is used to confuse some voters with large number of party symbols in ballot papers.
  • A letter appeared from Punjab Police barring all forms of cameras and coverage inside polling stations for NA120
  • The control of NA120 poll was handed over to army despite any security threats in this constituency.
  • Several journalists received threatening phone calls in attempt to silent their analysis on NA120, which were largely in favor of PMLN. Iftikhar Ahmed is the most senior electoral analyst with vast experience of heading the special transmissions. He reported about threatening phone calls after his analysis on TV channels though his twitter account.
  • New political parties were registered, like Milli Muslim League and Tehreek E Labaik, both with people from banned organizations with suspected links with deep state.

Kidnappings

  • Just a day before elections, several PMLN workers with important responsibilities were picked by unknown men in Vigo pickups, which is a clear hallmark of security agencies.

Polling Day

  • Instead of providing simple security, the Army came in larger number at every polling station and took over the polling responsibilities from the Election Commission officials. This included taking possession of the ballot boxes, checking ID cards and voter slips, restricting the journalists even with ECP permission to enter polling stations and slowing down the whole polling process.
  • Lahore Corp commander from Army was physically present in the constituency to oversea the entire electoral operation, this was first of the kind in any by-election.
  • The large number of polling agents from 40+ candidates in each polling station were entitled to see the NIC of every voter. This process intentionally slowed down the whole polling process and amounted to bullying, while large number of voters kept waiting outside the polling stations.
  • The polling time was not extended despite large number of voters were waiting outside the polling stations. This was also unusual as the polling times is always extended when voters are in queue.

Lesson Learned

  • No matter how hard the establishment tries, the tactics are effective only when the margin of victory is low. Even if 20-30% vote is affected, the party with 100% margin would win easily.
  • All parties should legislate that army officials could not assume the role of ECP and could never  touch the ballot boxes
  • Political parties should arrange sufficient backups for their polling agents and other key party members in case they go missing.
  • ECP should be more authoritative in their duties and not get bullied by anyone including army or members of political parties

 

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