Heavy presence of police, restrictions on observers mark low-turnout PP-13 by-election

PP-13 by-election was marred by the presence of police officials inside polling stations. They also stayed during the counting process.

ISLAMABAD, August 25, 2010: Low turnout, incidents of fraudulent voting, heavy presence of police inside polling stations and police restrictions on observation marked the by-election for the 13th constituency of the Punjab Assembly [Rawalpindi-XIII], reports the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in its Preliminary Report of PP-13 By-Election Observation.

The seat was vacated after the disqualification of Mr. Yasir Malik, who won the 2008 General Elections on a PML-N ticket by securing 23,415 votes when the voter turnout remained 35.97%. As many as 143,316 voters are registered in PP-13 (Rawalpindi-XIII) — 76,376 male and 66,940 female. There were 266 more voters registered for the by-election as compared to the registered voters for 2008 general election.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had setup 108 polling stations – 56 male and 52 female polling stations. The 108 polling stations had 239 polling booths – 125 male and 114 female.

FAFEN deployed 14 trained observers on Election Day to monitor more than 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.

FAFEN observers reported heavy presence of police in more than half of the observed polling stations. Police officials breached election rules by remaining present during the counting process at Polling Station Nos. 50 and 95. Police restricted FAFEN observers accredited by the ECP from entering four female polling stations (PS Nos. 52, 54, 63 and 67) to observe the voting process.

This preliminary report is based on observation of 62 polling stations – 38 male and 24 female. There was no combined polling station in this Rawalpindi city constituency. Some of FAFEN’s key findings include:

PP-13 By-Election: Suspicious Voting Patterns

There was one polling booth at one polling station, where FAFEN observers recorded suspicious voting patterns. If the polling is most efficient and each voter is taking approximately a minute and 30 seconds for processing (checking of name, checking of CNIC, issuance of ballot paper, going behind secrecy screen, stamping a ballot and returning of stamp to the assistant presiding officer), there can be approximately 45 votes that can be cast in an hour at a booth. However, the rate of voting was higher than possible. At booth 2 of Polling Station No. 1, the hourly average of votes polled was 47 when FAFEN observer visited the polling station.

Voter Turnout

According to FAFEN observers reporting from 14 randomly sampled polling stations, the turnout remained 21.9 percent, which was lower than the turnout in the general elections. The turnout at male polling stations was recorded at 23.5 percent and 19.4 percent at female polling stations

PP-13 By-Election: Fraudulent Voting

At 11 polling stations, additional counterfoils had been filled on the ballot books whereas at two polling stations ballot papers were issued without filling the counterfoils, indicating the possibility of fraudulent votes being stuffed in ballot boxes. Similarly, FAFEN observers reported from three 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 14 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.

Unauthorized Persons Inside Polling Stations

FAFEN observers reported presence of unauthorized people from 48 observed polling stations. At 35 polling stations, security officials were present inside polling stations and polling booths. Police officials were present during the counting process in Polling Station Nos. 50 and 95 and the respective presiding officers did not object their presence. 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 six polling stations, workers of political parties were found present inside polling stations. At similar number of polling stations, the voters who had cast their vote were present inside the polling stations. A local influential person was found to be present in one polling station.

PP-13 By-Election: Campaigning & Canvassing 

FAFEN observers reported from 59 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. Armed civilians were also observed to have been present at party camps around one polling station. Such display of arms inhibits voters from turning out to vote as well as compel them to vote under pressure.


Besides one incident of minor brawl between the workers of PMLN and supporters of an independent candidate outside Polling Station No. 14, FAFEN observers did not observe any other incident of violence.

PP-13 By-Election: Police Restrictions on FAFEN Observation

FAFEN observers were stopped from observing the voting and counting processes at four female polling stations by the security officials. The ECP allows its accredited observers to monitor all stages of the election, including the opening of polling stations, voting and the counting process.

FAFEN Recommendations

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

  • 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.
  • The ECP should reprimand all election officials who failed to enforce the election rules and laws.
  • 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.
  • To eliminate unauthorized people from being in polling stations:
    • Presiding Officers should be encouraged and provided adequate protections to use their magisterial powers.
    • All polling officials must be required to carry their Government Service Cards to prove their identity on Election Day.
    • 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.
    • Only people carrying proper identifications should be permitted inside polling stations and allowed to vote.
    • Adequate security checks should be performed in order to prevent unauthorized and armed persons in and around polling stations.
    • All polling officials must be required to carry their Government Service Cards to prove their identity on Election Day.
  • Adequate training of all polling officials must be ensured for all by-elections.
  • Polling officials should ensure that all campaign materials and camps are removed from around the polling stations.
  • 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.

About FAFEN: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.