2023 was one of the most challenging years in Pakistan, with a terrifying surge in terrorist attacks threatening the peace and stability of the nation. However, despite these daunting circumstances, Pakistan managed to successfully conduct its general elections on February 8, 2024. This remarkable feat is nothing short of a miracle, considering the level of violence and turmoil that the country had endured. The fact that the elections were held at all levels is a testament to the determination and resilience of the Pakistani people. This achievement is a result of the ECP’s commitment to ensuring free and fair elections and the tireless efforts of the armed forces in maintaining a peaceful environment. In a recent press release, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) outlined the multilayered strategies it had implemented to ensure a peaceful electoral atmosphere, affording Pakistanis the freedom to cast their votes in a safe environment. The ECP’s plan involved stringent security measures, mobilisation of armed forces, and enhanced vigilance at polling stations, effectively curbing the menace of violence. Special measures were also implemented to counter the intimidation tactics employed by extremist factions, thereby fortifying the electoral process. The ECP’s unyielding dedication to overcoming the odds resonates deeply in the hearts of millions of Pakistanis, demonstrating the strength of their commitment to democracy. Their audacious efforts, undeterred by the looming spectre of violence, allowed for the successful execution of the elections and the opportunity for Pakistanis to exercise their democratic rights freely and without fear. For instance, in the city of Karachi, traditionally a hotbed for electoral violence, polling stations reported minimal disruption thanks to increased security personnel, reinforcing the faith in this reformed democratic process. It is easy to criticise from the sidelines, but it takes immense courage and dedication to step onto the field and shoulder the immense responsibility of protecting and advancing democratic rights. The role of technology was pivotal in ensuring the transparency and success of the 2024 general elections. Whilst phone networks were temporarily suspended to bolster counter-terrorism operations, the internet remained fully functional, with no restrictions placed on social media usage. This enabled political parties to actively engage with their constituents and share real-time updates via their official social media channels. Thus, the state did not interfere with the polling activities of any party. This openness fostered a climate of trust and ensured the public’s access to reliable information throughout the polling time. Technological tools also played a critical role in election management, from the compilation of voter lists to result transmission systems. The ECP incorporated a robust digital infrastructure to expedite electoral processes and prevent discrepancies. This adoption of technology increased the speed and accuracy of results, further boosting the public’s confidence in the electoral system. Ultimately, the appropriate utilisation of technology, coupled with ECP’s commitment to a transparent electoral process, contributed to the fair and free execution of the 2024 general elections in Pakistan. An analysis of the election results corroborates the assertion that a level playing field was maintained. The strong performance of independent candidates, particularly those backed by the PTI, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where they achieved a clean sweep, is a prime example. This performance contradicts the narrative of state machinery being misused to steal mandates. If such machinery was in play, why was it not deployed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other regions where the incumbents faced significant losses? This observation deflates the allegations of selective interference. The ECP has consistently maintained its openness to investigating any irregularities brought to its attention, urging aggrieved parties to approach the appropriate platforms for redressal. This commitment to addressing any potential issues further solidifies the fairness of the 2024 general elections and reinforces the credibility of the democratic process in Pakistan. A tangible demonstration of this was when a minor issue regarding vote counting was raised in one of the constituencies of Punjab; the ECP promptly investigated and satisfactorily addressed the concerns, cementing public faith in its neutrality and effectiveness. Stopping election results that favoured Khawaja Asif would never have been possible had the state institutions wished to carry their own whims as opposed to the will of the people. The invitation extended by the Election Commission of Pakistan to international observers and journalists added a layer of credibility to the electoral proceedings. A notable visit was made by a 25-member delegation of the Commonwealth Observers Group who closely monitored the polling process in the NA-47 constituency in Islamabad. Their feedback was resoundingly positive, lauding the smooth and transparent polling process they observed. Similarly, the Japanese Overseer group sent a delegation to the NA-48 polling station, further ensuring the integrity of the polling process. The primary purpose of these international visits was to impartially monitor the electoral process and ensure it adhered to democratic principles. Through such international scrutiny, the Election Commission demonstrated its commitment to transparency and accountability in the 2024 general elections. The successful execution of the 2024 general elections will undoubtedly have a profound and positive impact on Pakistan’s democratic trajectory. The fairness, transparency, and peace that characterised this electoral process are a powerful testament to the strength and resilience of Pakistan’s democracy. The elections have not only reinforced the public’s trust in democratic institutions but also encouraged the active participation of citizens in shaping the nation’s future. This is a significant step towards strengthening the democratic fabric of the nation, fostering a culture of accountability, and ensuring that the people’s mandate is respected. Indeed, it is easy to criticise from the sidelines, but it takes immense courage and dedication to step onto the field and shoulder the immense responsibility of protecting and advancing democratic rights. Now, the elected leaders must use their mandate wisely, making critical decisions that reflect the aspirations of the people. This achievement marks a turning point in Pakistan’s democratic journey, raising the bar for future elections. It serves as a beacon of hope, signalling that even in the face of adversity, democracy can and will thrive in Pakistan. Take, for instance, the previously disenfranchised communities that showed a remarkably high turnout this election, demonstrating their faith in the democratic process. Maintaining a high turnout across the country was only possible because of the nurturing of an unshakeable faith in democracy; reflecting a truly transformative shift in Pakistan’s political landscape. The writer is a freelance columnist.