Shortfall in voters' list... By Shafaatullah
06 September, 2012
The Election Commission of Pakistan has printed the final electoral roll for the coming general elections. It has also announced that the lists have been sent to regional offices for verification and scrutiny. It is for political parties or individuals who intend to contest elections to raise any objection with regard to the authenticity of the lists and point out any discrepancy for correction.
As a citizen, I have some reservations: at the outset it is questionable why the list of eligible voters has been compiled without first collecting the national census data, in the absence of which the electoral rolls process is flawed. According to the print media, there has been a shortfall of over one million registered voters in Sindh and Balochistan each. On the other hand, this number has jumped to 3.86 million and over one million in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa respectively. Is it not amazing? The increase in two provinces and decrease in the other two need to be explained, though the issue may look trivial at the moment. However, after elections, the losing party can make it an excuse for accusations of pre-poll rigging of the election. The matter that is insignificant now might become important later.
The CEC is reported to have stated that with the completion of the electoral lists the first process of the election has begun. The officials of the Election Commission, along with the Chief Election Commissioner, are decision-makers, and the practical process of elections begins at polling stations.
The returning and presiding officers appointed by the EC always belong to the same district or constituency. Similarly, the polling staff is always composed of teachers and college professors. The local influential and powerful candidates buy or intimidate the lower staff and silence the polling agents of their opponents. The police and other law-enforcement agencies are under the influence of the provincial government and act under the direction of the local government over which the CEC has no control.
As stated by the CEC, the first phase of elections has begun. It would be fair and justifiable to stop the posting and transfer of officers and creation of new districts or tehsils until the elections are over. Despite the best efforts by the CEC, the local interference, malpractices and rigging of polls can hardly be stopped. The CEC ought to make appointments of staff at polling stations drawn from tehsils other than from those belonging to the same constituency.
These proposals need to be considered.