SC by-election suspension undermines ECP, Assemblies and fundamental rights

By-election suspension violates the fundamental rights of four million people. FAFEN questions rationale of the order.


ISLAMABAD, January 20, 2012: The Supreme Court ruling on January 19, 2012 to suspend all upcoming by-elections violates the fundamental rights of at least four million citizens who will be without elected representation for an undefined period, according to the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN).

The Supreme Court ruled that by-elections cannot be held on the vacant seats in the National and the Provincial Assemblies because the electoral roll is “bogus” and “unverified”. However, these same voters’ lists were used in the 2008 general elections to elect all other Members of the Assemblies, which have taken crucial decisions, including restoration of the judiciary and amendments to the Constitution.

By-Election Suspension: Case for Verified Voters

Moreover, more than 60 percent of these unverified voters were appended to the electoral roll on the direction of the Supreme Court in 2007. FAFEN was a party to this case and presented evidence and analysis that only verified voters should be appended to the electoral roll.

FAFEN believes that such rulings from the Supreme Court do not augur well for the independence of the ECP, especially in an election year.  The competence of the Commission needs to be upheld and not undermined in order to inspire public confidence in electoral processes, which is vitally important for the legitimacy of future governments.  The ECP is now comprised of the Chief Election Commissioner and four members nominated through a transparent and consultative process adopted after the enactment of the 18th Amendment.

Law Governing Electoral Rolls

Until the new electoral roll is finalized, FAFEN says, the current roll cannot and should not be suspended by the Supreme Court, as is clear from the statutes governing the electoral roll.  Doing so will disenfranchise more than two million registered voters and four million citizens in violation of their fundamental rights protected by the country’s Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Pakistan ratified in 2010.

By-Election Suspension: Ruling’s Immediate Effect

The ruling will immediately affect by-elections scheduled in eight constituencies representing 2.08 million voters and a population of approximately 4 million people.  The affected by-elections are for five vacant National Assembly seats (NA-9 Mardan-I, NA-140 Kasur-III, NA-148, Multan-I, NA-149 Multan-II and NA-195 Rahimyar Khan-IV), two Punjab Assembly seats (PP-18 Attock-IV and PP-44 Mianwali-II) and one Sindh Assembly seat (PS-57 Badin-I).

About FAFEN: FAFEN is a network of 42 civil society organizations working to foster democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. It is governed by the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability.