Human Rights Body questions Integrity and Credibility of Elections

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In the last 77 years, Pakistan has never had truly free and fair elections and the recent 12th general elections were no different.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) whose election observers carried out spot-checks across 51 constituencies “the countrywide internet and cellular services shutdown on polling day and arbitrary changes in polling information compromised voters’ access to polling stations. This was particularly true for women with restricted mobility, persons living with disabilities, the elderly, and low-income voters.”

In its report on the elections, HRCP noted “the polling process itself remained transparent and peaceful. Polling staff were generally well-prepared and well-equipped. In almost all cases, polling agents and candidates were shown the empty ballot boxes prior to polling and the presiding officer was observed stamping and signing the back of each ballot paper before giving it to the voter. The ballot box was in everyone’s sight at all times and voters were allowed to stamp their ballot papers in secret.”

However, according to HRCP “the post-polling process was clearly unsatisfactory. In a fifth of all polling stations observed by HRCP, the presiding officer did not affix the statement of the count in a conspicuous place for public display or was not seen transmitting a photograph of the result to the returning officer and ECP. It was alleged in many instances that the returning officer’s announcement did not tally with the presiding officer’s count. Worryingly, reports of candidates, polling agents and observers being denied permission to witness the provisional consolidation of results, also surfaced.”

In conclusion, the HRCP report called for an independent audit of the 2024 elections under the supervision of a parliamentary body. “Integrity of the 2024 elections was compromised, not only by lack of competence on the part of the ECP but also by constant pressure from extra-democratic quarters and questionable decisions by the caretaker government, all of which HRCP has documented in the year preceding the polls.”

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Author: Ahsan Kureshi