In advance of the Pakistan General Election, February 18, 2008, a total of 18,829 FAFEN Polling Station Observers (PSOs) and Mobile Observers (MOs) were accredited by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to observe the elections.
FAFEN recruited and trained approximately 20,000 observers, but more than 1,000 observers did not receive accreditation in time for the elections. The ECP Secretary and Provincial Election Commissioners (PECs) extended their full cooperation to FAFEN to help ensure that the maximum number observers would be accredited. FAFEN will provide a full analysis of its experience with the accreditation process the day following the elections, on February 19, 2008.
Call Center Operators at the FAFEN Secretariat spoke to 202 FAFEN Constituency Coordinators around the country between 9:00-11:00 on the morning of the elections to assess the opening of the polls. This data is based on the information from 5,587 polling stations out of more than 7,500 randomly selected polling stations being observed by FAFEN.
Two PSOs were briefly detained by a Returning Officer and two were arrested by police. FAFEN observers at four polling stations were assaulted by police/Rangers or party activists. In two cases, FAFEN observers ended up with broken teeth. Women have been barred by local community members from voting in at least six polling stations in district Mandi Bahauddin, though at one polling station four women nevertheless exercised their right to vote. Two female FAFEN PSOs have been arrested by police in the same district.
At least five polling stations are reported to have been “captured,” three by local Taliban. At one polling station, a Union Nazim intervened to stop voting. FAFEN draws the following preliminary conclusions, based on reports received so far, about the opening of the polling stations on Election Day:
- In reports from 202 constituencies, one or more PSOs were turned away from 510 polling stations by polling staff, security personnel or contesting parties and not allowed to observe for some period of time. In many other cases, Presiding Officers have told PSOs that they will not be permitted to observe the entire day, which they have been trained to do.
- FAFEN observers report that in 477 of 4,326 observed polling stations, Nazims or other local government officials are remaining in the polling stations for some length of time, potentially influencing voters.
- Army or paramilitary forces are present at 1,388 of observed polling stations.
- In approximately 171 polling stations out of 4,591 observed polling stations, one or more candidate “Polling Agents” have been turned away and are unable to monitor the polling process.
- In approximately 227 polling stations of 4,042 polling stations observed, at least one planned female polling booth was not open on Election Day.
- One or more polling officials are absent in approximately 510 polling stations of 4,617 polling stations observed.
- Approximately 979 polling stations did not open at 8:00am as scheduled, while 4,562 opened on time.
- FAFEN may release additional brief information in the evening of election day, based on reports from Constituency Coordinators, regarding the general conduct of polling day and the closing of the polling stations.
The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) is a coalition of 40 leading Pakistani civil society organizations of which 30 are observing the elections. It was established in 2006 to observe the election process, educate voters, and advocate for electoral and democratic reform.
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