NA-177 by-election sees most violations of Code, polling procedures

NA-177 by-election had more violations than any other constituency as FAFEN observes by-elections on 15 national assembly seats.

ISLAMABAD, August 22, 2013: Observers deployed by the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) to observe the by-elections reported a total of 464 violations of the Code of Conduct and polling procedures in and around polling stations in 15 National Assembly constituencies on Thursday.

FAFEN deployed 406 trained, non-partisan and ECP-accredited citizens to observe the by-elections. The observers generate objective information on the quality of elections that feed into research-based recommendations for improvement of future elections. FAFEN will release a preliminary statement containing quantitative and qualitative analysis of observations recorded by the observers shortly.

NA-177 by-election Violations

According to information collected by the observers, most violations (67) were reported in Muzaffargarh (NA-177), followed by 50 violations in Lahore (NA-129), 43 in Thatta (NA-237), 41 in Sanghar (NA-235) and 39 in Swabi (NA-39). In addition, the observers in Faisalabad (NA-83) and Lakki Marwat (NA-27) reported 26 violations each. The lowest number of violations occurred in Hafizabad (NA-103), where only 15 were reported.

There were 76 instances of security personnel and presiding officers barring FAFEN observers from observing the electoral process. Sixteen such cases were reported from Karachi (NA-254), followed by 14 from Sanghar and 11 each from Islamabad (NA-48) and Faisalabad. Seven cases were reported from Lakki Marwat, followed by another five from Peshawar. In addition, Muzaffargarh and Nowshera reported three cases while two were reported from Lahore and one each from Swabi, Hafizabad and Thatta. The DRO in Lahore denied accreditation to FAFEN observers, leaving them to carry out their observation outside the polling stations.

FAFEN observers reported 19 cases where women were not allowed to poll their votes, in violation of the Constitution of Pakistan, Representation of the Peoples Act 1976, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Ten such cases were reported from Nowshera, with another six from Lakki Marwat and three from Mianwali.

Electoral Violence

In addition, 15 incidents of electoral violence were reported in seven constituencies. A clash was witnessed in Sanghar over the issue of barring minority voters from polling. In another incident, a clash between PTI and ANP workers resulted in suspension of polling for nearly two hours in Peshawar. In another incident, polling remained suspended after an ANP leader entered the polling station along with security officials in the same constituency which led to a clash. Furthermore, a clash between PTI and PML-N workers resulted in suspension of polling for 75 minutes in Mianwali (NA-71).

One of the observers reported seeing a clash between voters and media persons in Lahore, while another reported PML-N workers involved in a verbal clash with policemen in Muzaffargarh. Moreover, a FAFEN observer in Killa Abdullah (NA-262) was beaten up by JUI-F workers, where three cases of violence were reported in all.

Transport Provided to Voters

The observers also reported 89 cases where voters were provided transport by contesting candidates, in violation of ECP’s instructions. Most of the candidates (45) belonged to PTI, followed by PML-N (38) and PPPP (26). The highest number of cases were observed in Swabi (18), followed by Lahore (14), Thatta (13) and Karachi and Mianwali (eight each).

Additionally, FAFEN observers reported 63 cases where security officials were seen inside the polling stations. An overwhelming majority of the cases (27) was reported from Muzaffargarh, 12 in Thatta and five each in Swabi, Sanghar and Killa Abdullah. Two security officials were also seen disrupting the polling process in Muzaffargarh.

Even though the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) allowed security officials’ presence inside the polling station, such exercise is against the international standards and best practices of democratic elections.

According to the observers, a total of four polling stations – three in Killa Abdullah and one in Muzaffargarh – were captured. Furthermore, there were 10 cases where secrecy of candidates was compromised and one incident in which voters were intimidated by armed personnel in Killa Abdullah.

Voting started at around 11am at five polling stations in Killa Abdullah, while it was yet to begin at another two polling stations in the same constituency when the FAFEN observer sent in the observation report at 1:20pm.

A two-hour delay was recorded at two polling stations in Sargodha, while voting began with a delay of around one hour at a polling station in Peshawar and another in Mianwali.

Observers also reported 13 instances where polling began with a delay of around half an hour. These included three instances in Peshawar, two each in Swabi, Islamabad and Karachi and one each in Sargodha, Muzaffargarh, Sanghar and Killa Abdullah.

FAFEN observers saw party camps established outside 68 polling stations within the 400-meter limit set by the law. Thirteen such cases were recorded in Thatta, 11 in Swabi, 10 in Lahore, nine in Muzaffargarh, six in Hafizabad, four each in Karachi, Islamabad and Sargodha, three each in Sanghar and Lakki Marwat and one in Nowshera.

In total, 18 cases of canvassing outside polling stations were observed in six constituencies. More than half of these (10) were in Lahore, three in Lakki Marwat, two in Sargodha and one each in Peshawar, Sanghar and Thatta.

Party Workers Interfering in Polling Process

There were seven cases in which party workers or candidates interfered in the polling process. The observers reported PTI’s involvement in two incidents in Faisalabad and one in Sargodha. PML-N workers were seen interfering in Mianwali and Sargodha, while a JUI-F leader meddled with polling in Lakki Marwat. In addition, unidentified armed men interfered in the polling process in Killa Abdullah.

Polling was disrupted at 11 polling stations. A bomb threat led to an interruption in two polling stations in Killa Abdullah. However, polling resumed at 11am. In addition, polling was suspended till 2pm for unknown reasons at two polling stations in Mianwali and one each in Lakki Marwat and Sargodha. Polling was also stopped for lunch break at two polling stations in Karachi and one each in Lakki Marwat, Hafizabad and Swabi.

Moreover, elected representatives were seen inside polling stations in six instances. Four such cases were reported from Muzaffargarh and two from Thatta. The polling scheme was also changed in seven cases – two each in Muzaffargarh and Lakki Marwat and one each in Nowshera, Mianwali and Faisalabad.

Observers reported PML-N workers carrying weapons around a polling station in Lahore.

Three cases of partisan polling staff were reported from Muzaffargarh and one each from Thatta and Islamabad while one case of partisan security officials was reported from Faisalabad.