ISLAMABAD: Senator Taj Haider, the head of the central election cell of the Pakistan Peoples Party, has said that the report on the recent polls issued by the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) has missed the major cause of contention regarding rigging allegations.
The critical issue of signatures of polling agents on Form-45 was not mentioned in the report, Senator Haider claimed. The omission was all the more shocking considering the audit and analysis methodology designed by Fafen clearly stated that the signature issue would be investigated. “Each Form-45 must carry the signatures of polling agents,” Fafen had outlined before issuing the report.
The Fafen report issued on Friday validated the position of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which has been caught in a controversy since the general elections held on July 25. Fafen backed the ECP on two major issues — the first was criticism by opposition parties over the Form-45 controversy and the second was reports of the expulsion of polling agents from polling stations during the vote count.
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In its findings, Fafen disclosed that the incidence of non-provision of Form-45 to candidates and their agents at polling stations had dropped from 7.5 per cent in the 2013 polls to 2.5pc in 2018.
Senator Haider pointed to Sections 90 (12) and 90(16) of the Elections Act 2017, and claimed that signatures of polling agents were a mandatory provision on Form-45, which shows the result of the count, and Form-46, which is the ballot paper account. These sections further make it mandatory for the presiding officer to record why the polling agent in question refused to sign both forms. Fafen, before publishing the report, had prepared an audit methodology in which it had highlighted the importance of these checks.
While all other checks and counter-checks that did not impact the results have been laboriously recorded in the Fafen report, the ones that could possibly point to alleged massive rigging have been completely ignored. This kind of omission could only be on purpose, said the PPP senator.
He added that the report appeared to be yet another attempt to blow up the irrelevant issues out of proportion in order to cover up the crucial problems with the election process.
Mr Haider said he hoped that Fafen was not under the same kind of pressure that the media had been exposed to, and argued that he was certain that Fafen had details on the Form-45 issue and that the organisation would bring the matter out into the light.
In response to the PPP’s reaction, a Fafen representative said they had the complete data with them which was being published. However, he said that in order to remove the immediate concerns of the parties they would soon release the required data in a day or two.
Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2018