Fraudulent Voting, Interfering Police Mark Gujrat By-Election

Gujrat by-election had many irregularities–fraudulent voting, police interference, etc. FAFEN paints the complete picture in this report.

ISLAMABAD, March 25, 2010: Impediments to independent observation, fraudulent voting, extremely heavy presence of police interfering with the voting process and presence of unauthorized persons inside polling stations marked the by-election for the PP-111 constituency of the Provincial Assembly [Gujrat-IV], reports the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in its Preliminary Report of PP-111 By-Election Observation.

The seat was vacated due to disqualification of Haji Nasir Mehmood, member of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab, who had won the 2008 General Elections by securing 25567 votes, when voter turnout remained 36%. As many as 163672 voters are registered in PP-111 – 88406 male and 75266 female. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had set-up 112 polling stations – 56 and 56 female polling stations.

FAFEN deployed 14 trained observers on Election Day to monitor more than almost 90 percent of the polling stations set up in the constituency. Observers spent between 45 and 60 minutes in each polling station to document their observations and findings on a standardized checklist that is based on the provisions of the Representation of the Peoples Act 1976, Conduct of Elections Rules 1977 and instructional handbooks that the ECP has provided to election officials.

This preliminary report is based on information from 68 polling stations. Some of FAFEN’s key findings include:

Gujrat By-Election Voter Turnout

According to FAFEN observers reporting from 24 randomly sampled polling stations, the turnout remained 36.05 percent, which was almost equal to the turnout in the general election. The male turnout remained 39 percent and female turnout was recorded at 29 percent. The following graph shows the hour-wise, gender wise turnout:

Fraudulent Voting

At 28 polling stations, FAFEN observers reported that persons other than the voters were stamping ballots. At 34 booths of 15 polling stations, additional counterfoils had been filled on the ballot books, indicating the possibility of fraudulent votes being stuffed in ballot boxes. Similarly, FAFEN observers reported from 16 booths at 10 polling stations that the numbers of Computerized National Identity Cards of voters as written on the counterfoils of the ballot books did not match the corresponding entries on the electoral rolls, again raising the possibility that fraudulent voting might have taken place. At 19 booths of eight polling stations, dubious thumb impressions marked on counterfoils of ballot books at the same angle with phasing out ink print were observed. In the case of genuine voters, each thumb impression is marked in fresh, dark ink and may be at varying angles. At 11 booths of nine polling stations, ballot papers were issued but the counterfoils were not filled.

At two polling stations, the average votes cast per hour was greater than the humanly manageable average of 60 votes per booth per hour. At one of the booths of Polling Station No. 38, 127 votes per hour were recorded at 3 pm. At one of the booths of Polling Station No. 77, 97 votes per hour were recorded at 1 pm.

Unauthorized Persons Inside Polling Stations

FAFEN observers reported presence of unauthorized people from 27 observed polling stations. At 66 polling stations, police, intelligence or other security officials were present inside polling stations and polling booths and at times appeared to have been in control of the electoral process. Many presiding officers said that security officers were present inside the premises of polling stations without their permission. Under electoral rules, even at sensitive polling stations, police is only authorized to maintain order outside polling stations in order to ensure smooth polling. They can only enter polling stations or booths when requested by the presiding officer. At two polling stations, the police or security officials were observed to have been persuading people to vote for a particular candidate and at one they were influencing the election officials to favor a certain candidate.

At 27 polling stations, FAFEN observers said that they had seen individuals belonging to a certain political party wearing campaign badges/symbols of contesting candidates. At 14 polling stations, people who had already voted were present.

FAFEN observers also reported presence of local influential people, government officials, federal and provincial ministers and officials at least 19 polling stations. Some of these unauthorized persons were either canvassing for a particular candidate or influencing the electoral officials to act in a certain way. However, candidates with their armed bodyguards were observed to have visited 22 polling stations and at the same number of polling stations they were seen canvassing inside the polling stations, which is illegal. Under election laws, only candidates are authorized to visit polling stations. They cannot bring in their bodyguards unless specifically permitted by the returning officer. At six polling stations, candidate or their workers were observed to have been persuading election officials to act in a partisan way.

Gujrat By-Election: Campaigning & Canvassing 

FAFEN observers reported from 67 polling stations that the workers of contesting candidates were campaigning and canvassing in violation of election laws that bar the same within 400 yards of polling stations. At two polling stations, FAFEN observers reported the presence of armed civilians at party camps. Such display of arms inhibits voters from turning out to vote as well as compel them to vote under pressure.

Partisan Election Officials and Breach of Right to Secret Voting

FAFEN observers reported from 9 polling stations that unauthorized persons and election officials were going behind secrecy screens to assist voters. At some polling stations, secrecy screens were affixed in a manner that election officials could view voters stamping their ballots.

Many of the procedural irregularities especially the presence of unauthorized personnel inside polling stations, including security officials, may just be due to lack of training of election staff, who are generally not clear of their authority under the election laws.

Gujrat By-Election: FAFEN Observers

FAFEN observers were stopped from observing the voting and counting processes at more than almost 10 polling stations by police or security officials, saying they were acting under the orders of the Returning Officer. The ECP allows its accredited observers to monitor all stages of the election, including the opening of polling stations, voting and the counting process. However, FAFEN observers reported that the election officials under close supervision of security officers were hesitant in particularly opening the counting process for public scrutiny, raising questions about the fairness of the electoral exercise.

Flaws in Electoral Rolls

FAFEN observers reported from significant issues with the electoral rolls bring used for the by-election. The electoral rolls have not been updated since 2008 general election. Moreover, the election officials were allowing voters to vote without the CNIC. At many polling station, old NIC were allowed as the proof of voter’s identity.


FAFEN observers reported incidents of violence from two female polling stations, where workers of rival candidates brawled over interference in the working of election officials.

FAFEN Recommendations

Having observed the aforementioned irregularities during the by-election, FAFEN recommends:

  1. The ECP should ensure that security officials perform only their designated duty of maintaining law and order outside of polling stations and do not attempt to manage election officials.
  2. The ECP should reprimand all election officials who failed to enforce the election rules and laws.
  3. The ECP and all provincial, district, and local election officials should administer each by-election with the same vigilance and attention to enforcing the law and procedures as during any general election. The result of any by-election not administered vigilantly should be voided.
  4. To eliminate unauthorized people from being in polling stations:
    1. Presiding Officers should be encouraged and provided adequate protections to use their magisterial powers.
    2. All polling officials must be required to carry their Government Service Cards to prove their identity on Election Day.
    3. Polling officials should ensure that only one polling agent representing each political party – and carrying proper identification from their party – is permitted in each polling booth.
    4. Only people carrying proper identifications should be permitted inside polling stations and allowed to vote.
    5. Adequate security checks should be performed in order to prevent unauthorized and armed persons in and around polling stations.
    6. All polling officials must be required to carry their Government Service Cards to prove their identity on Election Day.
  5. Adequate training of all polling officials must be ensured for all by-elections.
  6. Polling officials should ensure that all campaign materials and camps are removed from around the polling stations.
  7. More generally, given the consistent weaknesses in ECP by-election administration, by-elections should be minimized by restricting each candidate in general elections to contesting in only one constituency.


The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), a coalition of thirty leading Pakistani civil society organizations, was established in 2006 to observe election processes, educate voters, and advocate for electoral and democratic reform.