Preparations for polls

SENATE of Pakistan, which is a perpetual House under constitutional scheme of things, has started playing its role to help improve election arrangements and offer its counselling and guidelines to ensure they are held in a transparent manner. Its Standing Committee on Interior sought comprehensive briefings from all stakeholders including Secretary Election Commission, NACTA and ISPR on different aspects of preparations aimed at conducting the electoral exercise in a peaceful, orderly and fair atmosphere.
As far as paper presentations are concerned, the arrangements seem to be satisfactory and it is hoped that all concerned would make their contribution to achieve the goal of peaceful democratic transition. The Secretary of the Commission said 450,000 police and 300,000 army troops will be deployed on the polling day while 750,000 polling staff will perform duty. He also briefed the Senate Standing Committee about special ballot paper imported from abroad, arrangements made for security of sensitive polling stations especially installation of CCTV, powers available to the polling staff and security officials and the method of transmission of results. We hope that everything would proceed as planned but so far there are also reports of lack of proper planning and execution as far as designation of polling stations, assigning of voters to the polling stations and deployment of polling staff is concerned.
There are numerous complaints that thousands of voters have been assigned polling stations far away from their residences despite the fact that polling stations were available nearby. Similarly, women polling staff has been deployed at distance places creating difficulties of travel and accommodation for them and their families. Polling staff also complain that officers in senior grades have been appointed as Assistant Presiding Officers while juniors have been made their incharge as Presiding Officer, to favour blue-eyed people in monetary terms as fair amount is to be provided as honorarium to the staff. But there are also complaints that the amount much less than announced is proposed to be paid to the polling staff especially in Punjab and that the staff is also not being paid TA/DA for training, which was also substandard. May be all this is happening as the ECP did not get sufficient time for preparations because of confusion and uncertainty created with respect to timely holding of election but the Commission ought to rectify these and other shortcomings. Major test would be prompt dissemination of result, as in 2013 the ECP lagged much behind the media in announcing results.

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