The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) has deployed coordinators in more than 250 constituencies across the country to observe all aspects of the election process. These observers send weekly reports to the FAFEN Secretariat based in Islamabad, which uses the information generated to raise the issues with various stakeholders with a view to improving the quality of electoral processes.
The following provisional report covers the period from November 24, 2007 to November 30, 2007, and is based on the information received from more than 100 constituencies from the following districts.
|Sr. No.||Province||Number of Districts||Name of Districts|
|Chakwal, Khushab, Kasur, Jang, Okara, Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Muzaffargarh, Multan, Attock, Lodhran, Lahore, Layyah, Jhelum and Mianwali|
|Swat, Buner, Charsaddsa, Mardan, Kohat, Peshawar, Bannu, Haripur, Abbotabad, Battagram, Swabi, Hangu, Lower Dir, Karak, Lakki Marwat, Malakand and Nowshera|
|Dadu, Khairpur, Sukkur, Hyderabad, Tharparkar, Karachi West, Karachi South, Karachi East, Karachi Central, Malir, Umer Kot, Ghotki, Matiari, Nawabshah, Tando Allah Yar, Tando Muhammad Khan and Thatta|
|Jaffarabad, Quetta, Bolan, Nasirabad, Nushki, Kech- Turbat and Gwadar|
1. Finalization of Polling Stations
Political parties and contesting candidates need to know the location of polling stations as well as the number of polling booths in each one of them well ahead of the Election Day in order to be able to prepare and train their polling agents. Any delay in polling scheme and last minute changes in the location of polling stations, especially without any consultation with and information to all contesting candidates, create suspicions about the credibility of the election process.
FAFEN data suggest polling schemes in a considerable number of constituencies have not yet been prepared, with Election Day only four weeks away. Only 35 Returning officers were able to send the lists of polling stations to District returning Officers (DROs) before November 30, 2007.
However, such lists have yet to be received by DROs in Chakwal, Toba Tek Singh, Pak Pattan, Sahiwal, Mianwali, Haripur, Swabi, Karak, Nowshera, Tank, Dadu, Khairpur, Mirpurkhas, Hyderabad, Karachi West, South, East and Central, Matiari, Nawabshah, Tando Allah Yar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Thatta, and Jafferabad.
The following sections give an update on previously reported areas related to elections preparation:
2. Logistical Needs and Security Plans
Among other tasks assigned to them as listed in the Handbook for District Returning Officers (DROs) published and distributed by the Election Commission of Pakistan, DROs are responsible for ensuring that proper security, communication and contingency plans are drawn by law enforcement agencies in consultation with DROs and Returning Officers (ROs).
FAFEN observers reported that planning for election-related logistical and security needs has been finalized in 73 constituencies of 12 districts. However, no such plans are in place in 34 constituencies of Bahawalnagar, Dera Ghazi Khan, Khanewal, Jhelum, Mardan, Karak, Malakand, Mansehra, Tank, Dadu, Nawabshah and Tando Muhammad Khan.
ECP officials in 69 constituencies are prepared to address emergencies that require a role of security agencies on or before Election Day. Such level of preparedness has not been achieved in more than 35 constituencies of Attock, Faisalabad, Toba Tek Singh, Bahawalnagar, Dera Ghazi Khan, Khanewal, Lahore, Jhelum, Mianwali, Charsadda, Mardan, Abbotabad, Swabi, Karak, Malakand, Mansehra, Tank, Dadu, Sukkur, Noshero Feroze, Karachi West, Karachi South, Karachi East, Malir, Nawabshah, and Tando Muhammad Khan.
3. Election-Related Complaint Handling Mechanism
While the election process has entered its fourth week, ECP has yet to introduce and standardize mechanisms at the district level to handle and redress complaints related to violation of election laws as well Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Contesting Candidates. Best election practices warrant a clearly laid out and standardized complaint handling system to dispose of cases in a just and efficient manner. Absence of such systems causes distrust of contesting candidates and general public in elections.
FAFEN reports based on interviews with ECP officials suggest that such mechanisms are put in place in some shape in only 36 constituencies, though details on how they would function were not clear. However, no complaint handling mechanisms exist in constituencies of Chakwal, Jhang, Toba Tek Singh, Bahawalnagar, Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Attock, Abbotabad, Karak, Mansehra, Tank, Dadu, Khairpur, Noshero Feroze, Malir, Umer Kot, Nawabshah, Tando Allah Yar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Thatta, Jaffarabad, and Bolan.
4. Election Expense Tracking Systems
Limiting election expenses is essential to ensure a level playing field and equitable chances to all contesting candidates. Such election expense limits become meaningless in the absence of clearly laid out and standardized enforcement systems. Pakistan is one of the countries where the election expense limits have only proved to be of cosmetic value and has never been enforced in the past.
The ECP has yet to specify any mechanism at the constituency level for tracking and enforcement of the election spending limits on the contesting candidates for Election 2008. FAFEN observers reported absence of any such mechanism in Chakwal, Kasur, Toba Tek Singh, Okara, Bahawalnagar, Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Muzaffargarh, Multan,
Attock, Khanewal, Bannu, Haripur, Karak, Mansehra, Nowshera, Dadu, Noshero Feroze, Mirpurkhas, Karachi Central, Malir, Umer Kot, Nawabshah, Tando Allah Yar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Thatta, Jaffarabad and Nushki.
5. Training of Election Officials
By November 30, 2007, there were only seven constituencies in Muzaffargarh, Lahore, Mianwali, Abbotatabad and Karachi South, where ECP officials said they had been to any election-related training/briefing. However, ECP officials, including DROs and ROs, are yet to undergo any election-related training/briefing in 72 constituencies of Chakwal, Kasur, Jhang, Multan, Buner, Peshawar, Bannu, Haripur, Swabi, Hangu, Karak, Malakand, Dadu, Khairpur, Sukkur, Hyderabad, Karachi West, East, Central, Umer Kot, Nawabshah, Tando Allah Yar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Thatta, Jaffarabad, Bolan, Nasirabad, Faisalabad, Toba Tek Singh, Pak Pattan, Sahiwal, Bahawalnagar, Khanewal, Mardan, Mansehra, Nowshera, Tank, Noshero Feroze, Mirpurkhas, and Nushki.
Similarly, election officials in only 14 constituencies have received ECP Handbooks for DROs and ROs that contain instructional materials for various stages of the election process, some already passed. However, no such Handbook had been received in 64 constituencies of Kasur, Jhang, Jhelum, Mianwali, Kohat, Peshawar, Haripur, Hangu, Karak, Malakand, Dadu, Sukkur, Hyderabad, Karachi West, South, East and Central, Umer Kot, Nawabshah, Tando Allah Yar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Thatta , Bolan, Nasirabad Chakwal, Faisalabad, Toba Tek Singh, Pak Pattan, Sahiwal Bahawalnagar, Nowshera, Tank, Khairpur, Noshero Feroze, Mirpurkhas, and Matiari.
6. Accreditation of Election Observers
There appears to be lack of clarity among DROs on issuing accreditation passes to independent election observers, which is one of their assigned responsibilities as mentioned in their ECP Handbook. The ECP in Islamabad has yet to respond to letters and repeated telephone calls from FAFEN for issuance of accreditation passes to its pre-election and Election Day observers. In addition, DROs are not yet issuing accreditation passes to domestic observers in 86 constituencies of Okara, Multan, Jhelum, Kasur, Jhang, Faisalabad, Toba Tek Singh, Pak Pattan, Bahawalnagar, Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Muzaffargarh, Khanewal, Lahore Jhelum, Swat, Charsadda, Kohat, Haripur, Abbotabad, Hangu, Mansehra, Swabi,, Karak, Noshero Feroze, Tank, Dadu, Khairpur, Sukkur, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Karachi East, Umer Kot, Matiari, Nawabshah, Tando Allah Yar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Thatta, Jaffarabad, Nasirabad, and Nushki.
7. Transparency of Election Process
FAFEN observers have met with Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) officials including Assistant Election Commissioners (AECs), District Returning Officers (DROs), and Returning Officers (ROs) in many districts and constituencies around the country. However, relevant election officials in some constituencies of Khushab, Mianwali and Tando Mohammad Khan were unwilling to meet FAFEN observers or give any information with regard to the election process. FAFEN observers also have been informed by representatives of political parties and contesting candidates that ECP officials in Kasur, Sahiwal, Bahawalnagar, Rahim Yar Khan, Jhelum, Mianwali, Charsadda, Malakand, Mansehra, Tank, Sanghar and Karachi East were not responding to their election-related queries.
ECP officials in Jhelum, Khushab, Peshawer, Jhang, Faisalabad, Multan, Attock, Toba Tek Singh, Malir, Rahim Yar Khan, Muzaffargarh, Lahore, Mianwali, Buner, Mardan, Karachi
Central, Umer Kot, and Pishin have held one or more meetings with stakeholders, such as civil society or media, to inform them about the election process.
Political party representatives in 40 constituencies in Kasur, Jhang, Faisalabad, Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan, Rahim Yar Khan, Attock, Mardan, Swabi, Malakand, Nowshera, Mirpurkhas, Bahawalnagar, Khanewal, Lahore, Mianwali, Peshawar, Sanghar, Karachi West, South and East, Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Matiari and Thatta complained to FAFEN observers that district election officials were partisan and supporting one party or another during the scrutiny of the Final Electoral Rolls 2007.
FAFEN reports suggest that polling staff for Election Day duties is considered impartial by all political parties only in 49 constituencies. However, political parties and contesting candidates are questioning the impartiality of polling staff appointed for Election Day duties in Khushab, Bahawalnagar, Khanewal, Mianwali, Peshawar, Mansehra, Dadu, Sukkur, Mirpurkhas, Karachi East and Tando Muhammad Khan.
9. Electoral Rolls
The ECP dispatched the 2007 Final Electoral Rolls (FER) to the offices of its district AECs in the last week of October 2007. The ECP also specified the procedure for eligible voters, who were missing from the 2007 FER, to continue adding their names to these lists. The registration of voters continued until the announcement of the election schedule, as laid out in the Electoral Rolls Act.
FAFEN observers report that AECs generally were helpful to people who came to check their names on these lists or sought to register as voters. However, the office of AEC in Chakwal did not receive the list until the week ending November 30, 2007 giving no opportunity for additional eligible voters in this district to register their vote. Similarly, AECs in Muzaffargarh, Malakand, Nawabshah and Tando Muhammad Khan said that they never received any instructions from the ECP on processing the applications for voter registration.
Eligible voters interviewed by FAFEN observers in districts of Bahawalnagar, Charsadda, Swabi, Karak and Tank did not know that FER 2007 was on public display at AECs offices. AECs in Charsadda, Swabi, Karak, Malakand and Tank reportedly did not make any public announcement about the display.
Public access to the offices of AECs was also a major issue for potential voters. These offices are at a distance of more than a few hours drive from marginal areas in each district, making them generally inaccessible. The AEC offices including those of Chakwal, Bannu, Malakand and Nowshera are located in places that are not visible or easily accessible even to people in the vicinity.
1. ECP should direct ROs and DROs to immediately finalize the lists of polling stations as well as polling schemes and make no delay them available to all political parties and contesting candidates.
FAFEN also reiterates demands it raised in its previous Election Updates:
2. FAFEN recommends that the national authorities of the Election Commission of Pakistan issue uniform instructions and guidance to DROs and other relevant election officials in the provinces, districts, and constituencies regarding:
A standardized, meaningful election complaint system, including instructions to communicate this system clearly to stakeholders at the local level. Candidates and political parties, in particular, need much more information well before Election Day about the format and procedures for redressing pre-election and post-election complaints. Accreditation of election observers by DROs, beginning now. FAFEN also requests the ECP at the national level to respond to written communications and telephone calls from election monitoring groups. FAFEN is trying to help avoid a backlog of applications for accreditation immediately before Election Day.
Standardized planning well in advance for security, communication, contingencies, and emergencies, especially in locations with a history of electoral violence or current political unrest, in order to ensure voters’ safety on Election Day. In particular, FAFEN urges that the ECP take extra steps now to plan for providing security at women’s Polling Stations and Booths and to ensure that they remain open during the full period on Election Day.
3. FAFEN also recommends that the ECP issue clear guidelines to relevant officials at the constituency level for tracking and enforcement of the election spending limits by contesting candidates.
4. The ECP national office should send instructions to all PECs, AECs and district election officials that they should cooperate fully with all election stakeholders such as political parties, media, and election observers. In particular, AECs should be instructed to host a weekly meeting of election stakeholders to provide them with basic information about the status of electoral preparations, such as the distribution of key election materials.
5. ECP should share the following information with stakeholders at national, provincial, and district levels:
- Copies of the 2007 FER in paper and electronic form
- Copies of the 2007 Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Contesting Candidates Information about how to submit complaints or concerns about violations of the Code or any other electoral matter
- Information about how the Code will be enforced by election officials
About FAFEN: The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) is a coalition of thirty leading Pakistani civil society organizations. It was established in 2006 to observe the election process, educate voters, and advocate for electoral and democratic reform.
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