ISLAMABAD: The Elec­tion Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is yet to get funds to hold 2018 general elections as time is fast running out to make appropriate arrangements to conduct the free and fair electoral exercise, a meeting was informed on Tuesday.

The commission’s planning committee, which met here with ECP Secretary Babar Yaqub Fateh Mohammad in the chair, was informed that funding was required to purchase election material, procure closed-circuit television cameras, biometric machi­nes and result transmission system and train polling staff, but the funds had been provided only for paying salary to its employees and meeting office expenditures.

When contacted, a senior ECP official, however, said an amount of Rs8.2 billion had been sought for election activities which, he hoped, would be available in due course of time. “As far as the procurement of security cameras for sensitive polling stations is concerned, the process will take months and by then the funds will reach the ECP,” he added.

He said the planning stage was over and it was right time to start implementing and executing the plans, adding that the ECP had received lists of officers to be appointed as returning officers and district returning officers. He said that about 800,000 government servants would be required to perform duty as polling staff.

The official said training of 80 lead trainers would start soon and they would later train 25,000 master trainers who would then directly train the polling staff. He said training modules were ready, but pointed out that the training arrangement was based on the existing law and amendments would be required after the passage of a new electoral law.

The ECP official said that about 20 per cent of the polling stations to be established for the 2018 elections had been identified as sensitive and there was a plan to install security cameras at these stations.

He said letters had been written to three provincial chief ministers drawing their attention to the missing facilities at some polling stations, adding that a similar letter would be written to the Punjab chief minister this week.

He said the meeting had been informed that around a dozen strong rooms across the country were ready for opening. The ECP secretary would inaugurate the strong rooms in Gujranwala, Sahiwal, Mardan, Malakand and Kohat in the last week of this month and the first week of next month, he said, adding that these strong rooms would be used to store election material and end dependence on district treasuries.

It was proposed that a nationwide campaign to update electoral rolls be launched in September to enlist as voters those who had been issued CNICs in the recent past. However, a final decision on the matter will be taken later.

The meeting expressed its delight over the success of the result transmission system introduced during a recent by-election in Karachi’s PS-114 constituency and decided to test the same, along with the result management system and biometric machines, during the upcoming by-polls in Gujjar Khan (PP-4) and Quetta-Chaghi (NA-260).

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2017

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