HRCP emphasizes commitment to ‘civil supremacy’

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed satisfaction that the 2018 general elections were held on time and remained, by and large, peaceful.
However, HRCP regrets that many lives were lost in violence preceding the elections and condoles deeply with the families of the victims.
In a statement issued today, HRCP has said that, ‘while the conduct of the polls was, overall, orderly and peaceful, the Commission notes with concern the complaints made by several political parties as well as HRCP’s own observers regarding the management of post-poll formalities.
Numerous reports that vote counting was poorly handled – with polling agents prevented from observing the final count in many cases – and the unprecedented delay in results have cast a shadow over the electoral process. These questions must be diligently addressed to avoid any doubts concerning the credibility of the elections. ‘HRCP’s field reports indicate that observers’ access to polling stations remained problematic, for instance in NA 164 (Vehari), NA 125 (Lahore), NA 13 (Mansehra), NA 270 (Panjgur), NA 260 (Nasirabad) and NA 25 (Nowshera).
Moreover, many observers were prevented from remaining at any polling station long enough to document and verify their observations satisfactorily. HRCP urges the ECP to appreciate the fact that election observation is a time-consuming exercise on which the credibility of the election hinges.
‘HRCP is extremely concerned at continuing reports that polling agents, the media and observers were not allowed to remain present during the vote counting in many cases. Observers in numerous constituencies – including NA 100 (Chiniot), NA 76 (Sialkot), NA 13 (Mansehra), NA 16 (Abbottabad), NA 49 (South Waziristan Agency), NA 129, NA 130 and NA 131 (Lahore) – were prevented from observing the vote count. Indeed, HRCP’s observer team in Turbat reports that polling agents were locked into a separate room while the results were being counted. At one polling station in NA 125 (Lahore), the presiding officer ordered an observer out of the polling station, reportedly without just cause, threatening to have him arrested unless he complied. HRCP hopes the ECP will investigate all such incidents and make its findings public.
‘The contention that has arisen over reports that polling agents and/or observers were not given a copy of Form 45 – to which they are entitled under the law – needs to be addressed swiftly and convincingly by the ECP. It is difficult to believe that this should have occurred in so many instances solely due to poor management.
HRCP’s observers have confirmed similar reports in numerous constituencies, including, among others, Sialkot, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Charsadda, South Waziristan Agency, Kurram Agency, Chiniot, Lasbela, Gwadar, Mastung, Loralai, Panjgur and Quetta.
‘While there were few signs of obvious interference with polling overall, many observers report that polling staff relied visibly on security personnel to clarify balloting procedures. The ECP must address this apparent lack of training well before the next elections. In at least three cases, however, the presence of security personnel has borne out HRCP’s original concerns.
In NA 24 (Charsadda), security personnel were observed separating ballots into invalid and valid votes.—NNI

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