Erik de Bruyn, leader of the left wing of the Flemish Socialist Party in Belgium has been invited by the PPP to monitor the elections in Pakistan. In particular he is monitoring the elections in the industrial belt of Karachi (NA 257) where the PPP candidate Riaz Lund is challenging the ruling extreme right wing party, the MQM. Here what his personal report on day of election.
Yesterday started with hope, as you can see from my earlier report. But what I saw yesterday made me realise that this Election Day was just the beginning of a very long struggle of liberation of the people of Pakistan. Yesterday I visited some twenty 'sensitive' polling stations. All of them are in an area dominated by the MQM, the party in power in Karachi and the Sindh Province and the local pillar of the Musharraf regime.
When I say 'dominated' you have to take this quite literally. In theory all parties have the right to send scrutineers to the polling stations. In this area I saw only twenty percent of stations with PPP scrutineers. Other opposition parties were not even to be seen. How is this possible? The scrutineers present are incredibly courageous people. They suffer ill treatment, are sometimes abducted and often even killed by the parties in power. A collaborator of an independent NGO told me that yesterday official figures indicated that 15 scrutineers of the PPP were assassinated in the whole country. Most of the 27 people killed yesterday were scrutineers at polling stations, quite apart from the abductions, torture, etc. Last night two PPP women activists in Karachi were still missing. We tried to compensate for the absence of a sufficient number of PPP scrutineers by organising a kind of flying picket in this 'sensitive zone'.
The forms with the electoral results being changed or filled in at the central counting office of the NA-257 district, where the data should only be collected and counted.
The absence of PPP scrutineers was not the only thing I saw: some polling stations were decorated as headquarters of the MQM. Election forms which had already been filled in (pro-MQM of course) were strewn around the tables ready to get stamped by the officials, identification papers of people who are not on the electoral rolls (in other words people who do not exist), suitcases filled with election forms which were either not sealed or badly sealed. Some of the cases of fraud were solved by our presence and intervention. Some 900 MQM votes have been declared null and void as a result of these irregularities.
However, the worst was yet to come. In the evening I went to the central counting office of the NA 257 district. What I saw and photographed there defies everything imaginable. Stacks of bags full of election forms were broken open. Forms were being filled in or changed in the corridors of the court hall. Other original forms were thrown away. Thanks to our pressure and the presence of the local media, a local president of the polling station was arrested and taken away. But will it surprise you to learn that the PPP candidate Riaz Lund, who in the evening was winning with 15,000 votes in 50 out of the 198 polling stations, has officially lost the election?