Only one fourth of election petitions disposed of by October 31

ISLAMABAD, December 8, 2013: Fourteen election tribunals established across the country have decided only 95 out of 373 cases heard till October 31, 2013. At least 18 petitions have completed legally stipulated time of 120 days awaiting a decision, says Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in a press release issued on Sunday.

Based on the observation of the proceedings of 14 election tribunals constituted by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) across the country to redress election-related complaints by the contesting candidates, FAFEN says more petitions can go beyond 120 days for a decision.

FAFEN is commissioning a legal study with the assistance of 18 trained and non-partisan lawyers who observe tribunals’ proceedings and collect information. The ECP officially notified election results on May 22 after which the candidates had 45 days until July 6 to submit petitions. The current speed of tribunals may delay decisions on many petitions as 996 adjournments of more than 7 days has been recorded, whereas election laws and ECP directions urge tribunals to hear petitions on day to day basis and do not allow an adjournment for more than seven days.

The ECP received 406 petitions of which 16 were dismissed during the scrutiny and FAFEN study data suggests the ECP had referred 373 petitions to tribunals. Lahore Tribunal received 49 (13% of total) petitions; Peshawar Tribunal received 40, Faisalabad 39 and Karachi 26 petitions. In all, 36 petitions challenged nomination process, 89 challenged qualification of returned candidates and more than half (206 in total or 55%) of petitions, among other grounds, make allegations of corrupt practices by returned candidates and almost three fourths (271 in total or 73%) of petitions claim malpractice from other personnel including the election staff.

Independent candidates filed the most petitions across the country (94) while party-wise the candidates of three leading parties in the National Assembly filed a major chunk of petitions – PML-N 64, PTI 55 and PPPP 47. Similarly, a party-wise analysis of petitions filed against winning candidates shows the members of PML-N had the majority share of petitions filed against them as over a third (129, or 35%) of petitions filed against returned candidates belonged to the PML-N.

The largest share of the petitions was filed in Punjab (45%) with the most being filed in Lahore (43), followed by Faisalabad (27), Multan (16) and Bahawalpur (15). No petitions were filed against PML-N candidates in Dera Ismail Khan, Hyderabad and Sukkur. PPPP returned candidates were nominated in 47 petitions, mostly in Sindh – 24 petitions in Sukkur and 21 in Hyderabad.