Conducting elections in any country in the world is an extremely costly exercise running into billions of dollars. The challenge is even more real in a country like Pakistan which has previously seen democracy being subservient to the military. Little wonder then that the cost of conducting elections here has seen an exponential rise in the last ten years and has now more than doubled to more than US$ 3 billion.
According to a report in Pakistan-based Dawn, the expenditure on elections in the country has seen a massive rise since 2008 when the approximate cost was pegged at US$ 1.5 billion. This went up to US$ 3 billion in the next edition of elections - in 2013. In this period, the number of registered voters went up by 5 million - from 81 million to 86 million. That number has now seen a massive rise and this year, approximately 106 million people in the country have the right to cast their vote in the July 25 elections.
The report does mention that the monetary expenditures mentioned are total estimated costs and that the budget of the country's election commission forms only a part of it. But even that has seen a massive rise this year - going up from approximately US$ 36 million in 2013 to US$ 163 million, a four-time jump.
Some of the reasons cited for the jump in expenses of the election commission this year are rise in remuneration for temporary staff appointed for elections, ballots being printed on water-proof and expensive paper and for better management of the entire process of voting.
These figures though are only an indicative in nature as tracking every single money trail is largely believed to be impossible because of the volume of cash involved.
Tracking flow of cash, of course, is not a problem restricted to Pakistan alone. The role of money is seen as crucial in democracies around the world, including in the world's largest democracy of India. And for the sake of comparison, approximately US$ 4 billion was spent for conducting the Lok Sabha elections of 2014. True, money may not grow on trees but its role does rise in democracies with each passing year.
(Note: All figures are approximate. 1 US$ = Pakistani Rs 128.27)