ISLAMABAD: Two days after the PTI secured a resounding win the in the hotly contested by-polls for 20 Punjab Assembly seats, the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) — an amalgam of several NGOs working for transparent electoral processes — has called for a “conclusive parliamentary probe” into the rigging accusations levelled by the party’s chairman Imran Khan.

Despite the win, Mr Khan in his victory speech called for the resignation of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja and expressed his reservations over the alleged use of state machinery to manipulate the polls.

Fafen’s report released on Tuesday called for the formation of a “parliamentary committee with representation from all political parties” to ascertain the veracity of these allegations.

The report added that the campaigns had become “increasingly acrimonious” as the election day neared, with the PTI centering its campaign on the allegations of corruption, use of state resources, and collusion of the state institutions. “Marred by an increasingly negative trend of name-calling and accusations, the campaigns reflected the inadequacy of the ECP to enforce the ‘Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates’,” it said.

The report called for stricter laws to ensure compliance with the code of conduct and check any alleged misuse of government resources and vote-buying.

While giving its observations on the overall polling activity on July 17, the report noted that barring some incidents of violence, the process remained “relatively peaceful”. It also added that voters were carrying pieces of paper displaying the name or symbol of a contesting party or candidate at 21 of the observed polling stations.

These papers — provided by political parties to help polling officers search the voters’ names in electoral rolls — can compromise the secrecy of the vote, the report said, while calling it a violation of the Supreme Court’s order which banned the provision of such chits in 2012.

Barring a few instances, the report noted that the polling process inside the booths was “mostly compliant” with the procedural requirements.

Fafen observers reported that outside 337 (58 per cent) of the observed polling stations, campaign materials such as banners, posters and flags were seen, while the parties and/or candidates were seen providing transport to their voters outside 384 (67 per cent) of the observed polling stations.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2022

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