Please read the transcript of a talk given by the globalist Thomas L. Friedman at the Carnegie Council of Ethics and International Affairs. A three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Thomas Friedman has reported on the Middle East conflict, the end of the cold war, U.S. domestic politics and foreign policy, international economics, and the worldwide impact of the terrorist threat. His books include The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Longitudes and Attitudes, From Beirut to Jerusalem and his latest is The world is Flat:a brief history of the 21st century.
Asian Democrats Meet to Develop Recommendations to the Community of Democracies
Jan 23-24th 2007, Taipai, Taiwan
On 23-24 January 2007, a dozens of democracy activists from East, Southeast, and South Asia will meet in Taipei, Taiwan, and discuss the regional expectations of and strategy towards the Community of Democracies (CD) Ministerial Meeting, which will take place in Bamako, Mali, in late 2007. Organized by the CD Non-Governmental Process' International Steering Committee and the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, the meeting seeks to develop constructive recommendations on how the CD Non-Governmental Process can assist democratization in the Asia region.
The Community of Democracies (CD) is an intergovernmental organization of democracies and democratizing countries with a stated commitment to strengthening and deepening democratic norms and practices worldwide. The CD is composed of both a governmental component made up government representatives, and a non-governmental component comprised of civil society organizations who meet as a group at biennial ministerial conferences.
In 2004, CD governments also organized themselves into a Democracy Caucus in the United Nations (U.N.). The CD Non-Governmental Process is a forum dedicated to the promotion of democracy throughout the world, and serves as a parallel track for NGOs and other advocates of democratization to complement, appraise, and execute the guidelines set forth in the CD fora.
The meeting will evaluate the degree to which the Asian members of the CD lived up to their commitments to CD's Seoul Plan (adapted in 2002) of Action and Santiago Commitments (adapted in 2005) in the following areas:
- Gender Equality
- Strengthening Rule of Law
- Advancing Press Freedom
- Strengthening the Culture of Democracy through Democracy
- Improving Standards for the Conduct of Elections
- The Assault on Democracy: Freedom of Association
- Free Enterprise and Democracy
Additional information resources:
For more information about the CD Non-Governmental Process, go to:http://www.wfda.net/activities.htm?id=241.To review the CD Seoul Plan of Action, go to: http://www.democracycaucus.net/pdf/seoul_plan_of_action.pdf.To review the CD Santiago Commitments, goto:http://www.idea.int/democracy/loader.cfm?url=/commonspot/security/getfil
Manipulating the local elections
The writer is a former member parliament and a Lahore-based freelance columnist
While our attention is focused on terror bombings and the emerging crisis between Iran and the West, an event of great significance is happening in the country. The local government elections due to begin this month are not only important as an exercise in grass roots democracy. They are also the first building block in a master plan to get General Musharraf elected as a legitimate President of the country in 2007.
The control of local councils has always had a significant impact on national and provincial elections. This importance has increased after the implementation of the devolution plan in 2001. The Nazims not only have greater administrative powers than their predecessors, they also control large amounts of development funds. Their support thus translates into administrative and financial backing and will be a decisive factor in future elections.
This is so politically obvious that the deep involvement of the provincial governments in who gets elected is not a surprise. What adds to their urgency is that this local election will not only affect the composition of the future provincial and national governments. It will also deeply influence the Electoral College for the election of the President.
General Musharraf can only get elected as a legitimate President if a majority of his supporters get elected in 2007 to the national parliament and provincial assemblies. A "positive" result in the local elections is not the only variable for this to happen but it is exceedingly important. It is like starting a cricket match with a hundred runs already on the board or a golf game with a twelve stroke handicap. It does not guarantee a victory but it gives an enormous head start.
No wonder then that the Chief Ministers are working overtime and using every trick in the book, and many outside it, to achieve positive results. The manipulation has become so blatant and painful, that the entire opposition has decided to get together and register their protest.
The ARD sponsored a gathering on Thursday that has been described as the largest opposition conclave in recent memory. The parties that have come together to register their protest on election gerrymandering have little in common except a firm conviction that the government is rigging the local election. There are some contradictions within them because MMA controls the government in the NWFP and has been accused by the ANP of indulging in rigging itself. But, despite these hiccups, the united stand of the opposition against election manipulation is not without reason or evidence.
Let us start with the General himself. The Chief Election Commissioner has issued a code of conduct for the elections that is based on the Local Government Ordinance. Clause 16 of the code says "The Local Government Elections will be held on a non-party basis and no candidate will be allowed to use, directly or indirectly, the platform, flag, affiliation, monetary or material resources or any other help of any political, religious, ethnic or regional party or organization. (Section 152 (S) local Government Ordinance 2001.)"
Speaking at a public meeting in Swat, this is what General Musharraf had to say, "Do not vote for extremists in the upcoming local bodies elections and instead support the Pakistan Muslim League." His sentiment of not voting for the extremists is okay but where does the exhortation to vote for Muslim League candidates come from. Certainly not from the code of conduct or the local Government Ordinance! According to it, PML (Q) is not a candidate in this election. General Musharraf does not seem to think so.
Since this pronouncement by him we have not heard Justice Abdul Hamid Dogar, the Chief Election Commissioner, issue a notice to the General. Of what use is the code of conduct and the law if the President himself starts to violate it? But, then this is not the only violation. The Chief Ministers and the Ministers are also adding chapters to the proud tradition of election manipulation in Pakistan.
Says the great Sindh Chief Minister, "At least 80 candidates nominated by me have been elected unopposed as Nazims and Naib Nazims of eight union councils in Kashmore, Nazim and Naib Nazims of five Union Councils in Ghothki and councillors in other districts of Sindh." Well done Chief Minister Sahib. Now let us see what tactics Arbab Sahib is using.
According to this great new website, www.Individualland.com, "The Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians have reported that candidates have been whisked away by the administration in Kamber, Larkana and Shadakot namely Mr Nazir Hussain Gopang, candidate for General Councillor, Union Council 2, Kamber City, Sikander Ali Gopang, Candidate for General Councillor, Union Council 2, Kamber City and Mohammad Chandio, Ex Nazim UC Mirpur, Tehsil Warrah. These gentlemen were later released after using coercive means with them. Individu-land being non partisan investigated these reports filed by the PPPP through its field contacts and found them to be true." Chief Election Commissioner has so far taken no notice.
Similar tactics have been widely used in Balochistan where 270 candidates have been returned unopposed. The largest number, 94, are in Bolan which is a stronghold of the Federal Minister, Yar Mohammad Rind and second in Jaffarabad, 89, thanks to the former Prime Minister, Mir Zafarullah Jamali. The Punjab Law Minister, Raja Basharat, has also been making similar claims regarding the Rawalpindi area. Chief Election Commissioner again sees no evil, hears no evil.
Let us go further. Clause 19 of the code of conduct says "Candidates or their representatives will not announce, secretly or openly, any grant or donation for any institution of their council from the day of the announcement of the election schedule to the polling day." If we consider the Chief Ministers as representatives of the PML candidates, as we must because no less than the General himself has declared this party to be in the run, let us look at the announcements being made by them.
"The Chief Minister of Punjab announced that the government had allocated Rs 7 billion for 21 tehsils in Multan ... At the end of his speech, the Honourable Minster then announced that Mr Faisal Mukhtar would be a candidate of the ruling party for the top slot of the Multan city district government." This report was printed in the Dawn on Monday, August 08.
If this is not a clear violation of the code of conduct then God knows what is. He is not only announcing grants but announcing candidates for the ruling party which is supposedly not running in this election. Again, the Chief Election Commissioner is mum.
Sheikh Rashid, the Information Minister, has invited foreign observers to come witness the elections. He's as usual being too clever by half. It is now widely recognised that elections are not only rigged on polling day. Much can be done before that and a great deal afterwards. Only those unschooled in the art of election rigging stuff ballot boxes. The sophisticated have perfected pre election and post election tricks.
We have unfortunately been subjected to many a rigged election. This one appears to be no different. The sad saga of a flawed democracy in Pakistan continues. When will we ever put national interest before personal interest?