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Fair polls linked to free ECP

January 14, 2016

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ISLAMABAD: Lawmakers from various political parties on Wednesday recommended that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should be made more independent for ensuring free, fair and transparent elections.

At a session organised by Pildat on “Performance of Election Commission of Pakistan in 2015,” the speakers discussed the limitations faced by the ECP that impeded its performance.

PML-Q Senator Mushahid Hussain said the performance of current ECP was not up to the mark. He said the functioning of the electoral body should be different from that of other government organisations.

“This vital organisation has to work round the clock, this has to be dynamic and proactive,” he said and added that the appointment of the chief election commissioner should be made through broader consultations instead of just between the prime minister and the opposition leader.

PTI MNA Shafqat Mahmood said due to various reasons the ECP had been showing its loyalty to the governments since long. He said in the past when the PPP was in a winning position the ECP just to confuse its voters introduced the election symbol of pencil which was similar to PPP’s arrow.

“Similarly, in recently-held by-elections in NA-I54 Lodhran, from where PTI Jahangir Khan Tareen was contesting on the symbol of bat, the ECP allotted a symbol of batsman to Shahid Jahangir Khan. We protested that the similarity of symbols and names will confuse our voters, but to no avail.”

Another MNA from PTI, Arif Alvi, said for conducting free fair and transparent elections, the ECP should introduce an electronic voting system. He also said overseas Pakistani should be allowed to cast their votes. “In electoral reforms committee, we are working on various proposals for giving the right to overseas Pakistanis,” he said

PML-N MNA Rana Mohammad Afzal Khan said some parties were wrongly criticising the ECP and fanning the issue of rigging. However, he said elections should be held under the supervision of judiciary. “The government officials such as from the department of excise and taxation can’t hold transparent elections.”

He said if the polling agents were trained, there would be no issue of rigging.

Additional Secretary ECP Fida Mohammad said they had been taking various steps for bringing further improvement. He, however, rejected the impression that the ECP had been working under the influence of the government.

According to Pildat, he said, the ECP spent Rs100 million on voters’ education during the local government elections. However, the turnout remained as low as 30 per cent in cities.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2016