Empowerment of ECP linked to better democracy

KARACHI: Impartiality, autonomy, authority and accountability of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should be ensured as per law for ensuring better electoral process in the country. The autonomy of ECP would also ensure the true spirit of democracy which is in the larger benefit of public and government.

These views were expressed by Free & Fair Election Network’s (FAFEN) team leader Rukhsana Shama while addressing to a session on Electoral Observation Findings and Reforms”, jointly organized by FAFEN and Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) at a local hotel on Wednesday.

The session was attended by members of Legislative Governance Support Group (LGSG) including HRCP’s Ms Uzma Noorani, Aurat Foundation’s Malka Khan, Nadeem Wagan from Hands, Alif Ailan’s Adeel Ali and Urban Resource Center’s Zahid Farooq while PPF Chairman Owais Aslam Ali, FAFEN’s Manger Communications Abdul Ahad and FAFEN’s official Abdul Razaque were also present.

The program was aimed at discussing the flaws in current electoral process and in this regard recommendations were sought from the members of LGSG to improve this process through proper advocacy with legislators of provincial assemblues, as well as, national assembly.

Ms Shama said it has been observed that some candidates spend millions of rupees on their election campaigns but officially declare only a small amount of these expenses, while the rest of the amount is declared as donations by their supporters. She said, however, some other candidates lack financial source; resultantly, the election process is affected and a proper transparency could not be ensured.

She recommended that electoral law must be imposed regarding the campaign expenses. She said the candidates and political parties should clearly define what is included in campaign expenses. The ECP should make sure that the candidates declare the estimates of their expenses before submitting filing their papers and not a single extra penny should be spent by them during their election campaigns.

Ms Shama further said that it has also been observed that the results of majority of polling stations were withheld during previous elections due to misconduct, and re-election of these polling stations took too much time which was against the Pakistan Election Law. All the matters of polling stations should be resolved within 120 days for ensuring a fair and transparent process of election. The accessibility of voters to polling stations should also be ensured so that all people could use their right of vote including women, old people and disabled people.

Shama said there is dire need to put an end to the political involvement in the election process. An efficient and citizen-friendly voter registration process should be ensured. In the end the participants recommended that the use of technology should be increased in the electoral process for ensuring transparency and minimizing the extra expenditures of ECP for publishing ballot papers. They also noted that the interference of political parties or government in the matters of ECP also affect the fair and transparent election process. They recommended that the reserved seats for women and non-Muslims should also be ensured in the national and provincial assemblies on merit basis so that all minority communities could get their right.