Gearing up for the most watchful elections
ISLAMABAD, Sept 5: Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should assure transparent elections in the country and for that access of national and international observers should be allowed through law.
Immediate action on complaints from far-flung areas should also be taken. Participation of women voters in elections must be assured.
This was identified as key areas of reform by prominent Pakistani and international organisations at a news conference held in Islamabad on Wednesday.
The organisations presenting the joint briefing paper “Key Reforms for General Elections in Pakistan” included Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Aurat Foundation (AF), Centre for Civic Education Pakistan (CCE), Free and Fair Elections Network (FAFEN) and Democracy Reporting International (DRI).
They emphasised that to achieve the reforms, parliament should immediately begin process of stakeholder consultation based on constitutional requirements and international law commitments.
In addition, the ECP should establish transparency mechanisms, including full access of observers to result in aggregation and immediate publication of all the polling station results.
Senior representative of HRCP Nasreen Azhar said that the electoral issues identified in the briefing paper require renewed focus and reform interventions before the next general elections.
DRI’s Country Director Vladimir Pran pointed out that “most of the recommendations in this paper are based on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Pakistan in 2010”.
He explained that the reforms identified in this paper are in line with Pakistan’s international obligations for free, fair and transparent elections.
“Rules of ECP do not give any right to observers but they should have access to all phases of elections. Out of country voters should also get equal facilities to cast their votes,” he said.
FAFEN representative Rashid Chaudhry said that according to his organisation’s assessment, as many as 20 million people could not be included in voter lists and a number of addresses were wrong.
“We recommend that the ECP invests additional efforts in providing access of citizens to the registration,” he said.
CCE’s Executive Director, Zafarullah Khan stressed that adherence to the code of conduct, neutrality of state administration and reduced violence is crucial to ensuring free and fair elections.
He said that “measures are required to ensure all parties to publicly condemn violence, intimidation and coercion.”
Aurat Foundation’s representative Wasim Wagha emphasised that “there should be legislation to ensure a minimum level of women’s voter participation at polling stations and in constituencies and this should be implemented by the ECP”.
Reforms suggested by organisations were that ECP should establish a reliable mechanism for updating and maintaining the electoral roll. Transparency mechanism and effective system for election dispute resolutions should be devised. Participation of women and out of country voters should be assured.