General elections not possible in three months, says ECP

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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has expressed its incapability to conduct general choices within three months, citing colorful legal terms and procedural challenges as the reason.

A elderly functionary of the ECP told Dawn that the medications for the general choices would bear some six months. He said fresh delimitation of constituencies, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the number of seats had been increased under the 26th Correction, and bringing quarter-andconstituency-wise electoral rolls in conformity were the major challenges.

“ Delimitation is a time- consuming exercise where the law provides for one month’s time just to invite expostulations,” he said, adding that another one month was needed to address the same. He said a minimum of three months would be needed to complete the exercise, followed by another gigantic task of streamlining choosers’lists.

The functionary said procurement of election material, arrangement for ballot papers and appointment and training of polling staff were also amongst the challenges. He said that under the law, ballot papers with water mark were to be used which weren’t available in the country and would have to be imported. He revealed that the ECP had proposed to amend the law to give for ballot papers with‘ security features’, rather of‘water mark’.

Cites colorful legal terms and procedural challenges

The functionary said inviting flings and scrutinising fiscal and specialized citations would also bear some time. About the election material, he said some two million stamp pads would be needed for around polling stations. “ This is just one illustration. Other accoutrements in huge volume, including scissors and ball points, will also have to be carried,” he remarked.

Pertaining to some legal terms, the functionary said that under Section 14 of the Choices Act, the ECP was to advertise an election plan four months previous to the pates. He said the law taking use of EVMs (electronic voting machines) and giving overseas Pakistanis advancing rights also held the field and had to be repealed.

The functionary said the commission had formerly blazoned the schedule for original government (LG) choices in Baluchistan, setting May 29 as the polling day, while the process was also under way to hold LG pates in Punjab, Sindh and Islamabad.

“ We’ll have to drop the plan for LG pates, if general choices are to be conducted,” he noted.

Legal, functional challenges
Expressing grave concern over the recent political developments and preceding indigenous extremity, the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) has linked multiple indigenous, legal and functional challenges to the conduct of an early election.

“ While the constitutionality of the measures leading to the dissolution of the National Assembly will be decided by the Supreme Court, Fafen hopes for a prompt decision by the apex court, which correctly took up the matter suo moto, as any detention will continue to accrue contributory issues arising out of the indigenous impasse.

“ Public confusion and political divisions that have formerly arisen as a result can potentially restate into violent expression. Political parties have a great responsibility to manage their workers and make sure that political dissensions don’t turn into violence, especially ahead of an early election,” Fafen said in a statement issued on Monday.

According to it, an early election may not be a smooth process in view of several indigenous and legal complications.

“ The critical factor for the legality of any election will be the completion of the Election Commission,” it said, pointing out that the ECP members from Punjab and KP were yet to be appointed. The indigenous procedure for appointment of the members under a caretaker set-up remains unclear under Composition 213 (2B), which requires the high minister and the opposition leader to initiate the process in a especially formed commission comprising only legislators.

Another concern is the indigenous and legal status of the current delimitation of seats of the public and parochial assemblies since it was carried out on the base of provisional results of the 2017 tale.

Also, confusion continues to cloak the practicality and enforcement of the recent emendations to the Choices Act, 2017, pertaining to the use of EVMs and the facilitation of overseas Pakistanis to bounce in their country of hearthstone, which were passed by a common sitting of congress without the support of the opposition parties.

Fafen said it had always prompted the need for electoral reforms through political agreement as majoritarian changes to the election law always led to challenges to the legality of the election outgrowth and political stability.

The under- enrollment of women on the electoral rolls is also one of the major issues that the ECP had started to successfully address through targeted juggernauts. While the ECP has been suitable to arrest the rising gender gap on the electoral rolls, there still are11.37 million women who remain unrecorded as choosers.

In case the choices are called within three months, the electoral rolls will have to be firmed 30 days before the advertisement of the election programme as per Section 39 of the Choices Act, thereby rendering millions of women choosers disenfranchised.

Another challenge to early choices is the functional and logistical medication by the ECP involving recruiting and training around one million polling staff, and printing, publishing and transportation of election accoutrements as well as selection of locales for further than polling stations that are to be established due to the addition of further than 15 million choosers on the electoral rolls since the 2018 general choices.

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