LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) raised serious concerns about the integrity and credibility of the Feb 8 elections, citing a range of issues that have cast a shadow over the democratic process.

In a report released on Saturday, the HRCP urged an independent audit of Feb 8 general elections under the supervision of a parliamentary body.

According to HRCP’s election observers, who conducted spot-checks in 51 constituencies, the nationwide shutdown of internet and cellular services on polling day, coupled with arbitrary changes in polling information, hindered voters’ access to polling stations.

“This was particularly true for women with restricted mobility, persons living with disabilities, the elderly, and low-income voters. Of particular concern is the protracted delay in announcement of election results by the returning officers,” said the report.

Post-polling procedures expose discrepancies

While the polling process itself was generally transparent and pea­ceful, the post-polling procedures raised significant concerns, it said.

The report said that in a fifth of all polling stations observed by the HRCP, the presiding officer either failed to affix the statement of the count in a conspicuous place for public display or was not observed transmitting a photo 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,” it said.

HRCP demanded an independent audit of the 2024 elections under the supervision of a parliamentary body, emphasising that security and intelligence agencies should play no role in managing the electoral process or its outcomes.

The commission also called for a parliamentary debate on the efficacy of the caretaker government scheme and insists on the availability of seamless cellular and internet services on polling day.

Additionally, HRCP demanded the ECP publish all relevant Forms 45, 46, 48, and 49 in accordance with the Elections Act 2017.

HRCP emphasised the need for all parties to uphold and protect civilian supremacy through consistent, meaningful, and inclusive dialogue, highlighting that the true casualty of these elections has been democratic values and the rule of law.

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2024

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