February 17, 2008
"Welcome to Democracy, Pakistan-Style"
BY Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
Election banner on the streets of Karachi.
Editor's Note: On the eve of tense elections in Pakistan, where more than 50 people were killed in pre-election violence over the weekend, FRONTLINE/World's Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy visits the neighborhoods around her home city of Karachi where she reports that ballot rigging, coercion and intimidation are all taking place. Although the government has stressed this election will be free and fair, one smaller-party candidate told Obaid-Chinoy, "In this illiterate country of ours, fear, intimidation, and harassment get you votes. Until that culture is destroyed, Pakistan will never have democracy."
Even before the first vote has been cast, there are fears of massive rigging. Leaders of the two major opposition parties, the Pakistan People's Party and the Pakistan Muslim League, have already warned that the elections will not be free and fair. To average Pakistanis, the February 18th election is merely a game played out at the behest of the Americans.