Source: Pildat
Source: Pildat

• Think tank’s analysis indicates 2024 election’s fairness score lower than 2018, 2013
• Suggests increasing number of election tribunals to resolve disputes, forming commission of enquiry on 2013 pattern
• Seeks explanation for lack of EMS contingency

ISLAMABAD: Noting that the fairness of the 2024 general elections had declined from the previous two electoral exercises, the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) has called on the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the delays in the compilation and transmission of results that marred the credibility of the process.

In the report Assessment of the Quality of General Election 2024, released on Wednesday, the think tank said that there were two ways to address the controversies relating to the polls: allow election tribunals to resolve disputes on a case-by-case basis, or constitute a commission of enquiry, such as the one formed to probe the general elections of 2013.

The report is based on the institute’s independent analysis as well as a questionnaire, which was scored by a cross-section of civil society, comprising politicians, lawyers, activists, academics, retired bureaucrats, retired military officials and politically aware youth.

The report highlights six key issues that negatively impacted the quality of the 2024 general elections:

a) considerable delays in scheduling of the election, political repression, lack of impartiality from state institutions and worsening law and order in the pre-poll phase;

b) suspension of mobile phone and internet services that compromised the Election Management System (EMS) and created problems for public participation;

c) delay in the announcement of provisional results beyond the legal deadline;

d) widespread allegations of discrepancies between Form-45s and Form-47s, suggesting that the provisional result was tampered with at the RO offices;

e) failure to publish Forms 45, 46, 48 and 49 on the ECP website within 14 days of polling day, as mandated by Section 95 (10) of Elections Act, 2017; and,

f) ECP indecisiveness on the allocation of reserved seats to the Sunni Ittehad Council, which remained a major point of contention for 25 days.

Overall, Pildat scored the quality of general election 2024 at 49pc, not only below the 50pc threshold, but also lower than the overall score of the past two elections — 52pc for 2018 and 57pc for 2013.

In addition to a thorough investigation into the delays in transmission, consolidation and announcement of provisional results, the institute has asked ECP to explain the lack of contingency planning to meet result issuance deadlines in case of EMS inoperability, as well as its failure to publish signed copies of forms 45, 46, 48 and 49 within the stipulated timeframe.

It also recommended that election tribunals should be allowed to resolve disputes on a case-by-case basis. Although election tribunals are given a legal deadline of 180 days to decide election petitions, many petitions take much longer to decide.

“Pildat is deeply concerned that only two election tribunals have been constituted in Punjab compared to eight constituted after [the] 2018 general election and the nine reportedly requested by the ECP this time,” it said.

“This indicates that a much longer delay in deciding election petitions is expected this time,” the report said, demanding that the number of tribunals be adequately increased to decide all election petitions within the legal deadline of 180 days.

“Overall, the controversies and challenges that dominated the 2024 election cycle in Pakistan point once again to the need for transparency and accountability to overcome systemic shortcomings and safeguard the integrity of future electoral processes,” the report noted.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2024

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