Blatant vote rigging in Musharraf's Referendum

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Muslim News" <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 2 May 2002 09:40:16 +0100

Thinking herself unobserved, a polling officer quietly stamped ballot papers 
with a "yes" vote in Pakistan on Tuesday, falsifying votes in a controversial 
referendum to extend military President Pervez Musharraf's rule. 

Challenged by a Reuters team, the presiding officer at a government college for 
women in the city of Rawalpindi said she had been given no choice by her 

"I have been told by the principal to complete 500 votes at my booth," she told 
Reuters, explaining that only 150 people had cast their votes. 

"What can we do?" she asked, clearly distressed and explaining she had been put 
under huge pressure. "We are government servants and we have to do our job." 

Evidence emerged on Tuesday that the machinery of state was being used to 
bolster support for Musharraf and to raise the turnout in a referendum to 
extend his rule for another five years. 

Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in October 1999 but has since 
become a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, says he wants a popular 
mandate to continue his economic and political reforms and check religious 

Although political parties in Pakistan have condemned the referendum as 
undemocratic and unconstitutional and urged a boycott, Washington has not 
raised any objections. 

Musharraf is expected to win the vote easily -- his strong stance against 
corruption has won him widespread support -- but the turnout will be closely 
watched as a barometer of his support. 

Throughout the country, many of Pakistan's roughly five million public sector 
employees complained they had been forced to vote on Tuesday. 

Journalists saw a police inspector open several ballot papers at one polling 
station in Rawalpindi to see which way people had voted, and he also brushed 
aside polling agents' objections when one man turned up to vote without an 
identity card. 

There had also been fears Musharraf supporters would vote more than once, 
especially as there is no electoral list and many polling booths were not 
demanding identification. 

In Lahore, a group of around a dozen people, each with both thumbs marked with 
indelible ink indicating they had already voted twice, turned up at one polling 
station to try to vote a third time, but were refused permission. 

At one polling station in Peshawar indelible ink was not being used, and a 
local councillor was openly instructing people to vote "yes". 

The government denied putting pressure on its employees. 

"If you force me to go and vote, you cannot force me to say 'yes'," Information 
Secretary Anwar Mahmood told Reuters. "If you force me, I will go and vote 

But some government employees said they had little choice. 

"While working in government, you can't say 'no'," said one civil servant 
voting alongside his colleagues in Islamabad. 

At the government college in Rawalpindi, the presiding officer's colleagues 
tried to discourage her from speaking her mind, but she was determined to have 
her say. 

"You are not local media, you should not be afraid. You should publish this," 
she told Reuters. "I am doing this now because otherwise I will have to do it 
after seven p.m. (1300 GMT, when polls close) and I want to go home early." 

Mahmood said he could not comment on what happened in one out nearly 90,000 
polling stations around the country. 

"The fact of the matter is that people are very enthusiastic about the whole 
thing," he said. "It has been very peaceful and there have been no incidents 
anywhere in the country." 

Pakistan has an unhappy history of referendums by military rulers. It is 
generally accepted the last referendum in 1984, by military ruler General 
Zia-ul-Haq was massively rigged in his favour to justify extending his rule. 

There are no official international observers at Tuesday's referendum, although 
diplomats said some of their staff were following the vote as part of their 
normal work. 

Source: Reuters 

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