ISLAMABAD, January 27, 2010: The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) urges the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to take immediate measures to ensure free movement of voters, media and election observers in PF-83 Swat-IV where by-election is due on Thursday, January 28, 2010.
According to FAFEN observers, Swat district administration is acting independent of election authorities in PF-83 constituency. FAFEN has deployed a team of 15 observers to observe 80 polling stations in PF-83 that fell vacant after Dr Shamsher Ali Khan, who was elected in 2008 general election on ANP ticket, died in a suicide attack on December 2, 2009. All FAFEN observers have duly been accredited by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
FAFEN team faced an awkward situation when the local administration of Swat informed them on Wednesday [January 27, 2010] that special permission would be required to enter the constituency on the polling day. Such permission is mandatory for media as well. According to the office of the District Coordination Officer of Swat, report FAFEN observers, the permission would be granted by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). Public transport will not be allowed to enter the constituency on the Election Day.
However, the District Returning Officer (DRO) Mr. Shafiq Ahmed Khan, when approached, was unaware of any such decision and said that observers and media would be free to enter and move in the constituency on the Election Day. Similarly, DRO was also not on board with the local administration’s decision to ban entry of public transport to the constituency.
FAFEN believes that such independent steps by the local administration constitute interference in the electoral process and compromise the integrity of elections. The executive is constitutionally bound to assist election authorities in the conduct of elections as and when asked. They cannot take decisions without the consent and consultations of election officials while election process is underway.
Banning public transport’s entry will disenfranchise voters working away from home. Similarly, restriction on the movement of observers and media will create doubts about fairness and transparency of the electoral exercise.
About FAFEN: FAFEN is a network of 30 civil society organizations working to foster democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. It is governed by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability. For more information please visit www.fafen.org. For queries contact FAFEN Representative (0301-854-9188)
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