PTI’s foreign funding case renamed as prohibited funding | By Kanwar M Dilshad

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PTI’s foreign funding case renamed as prohibited funding

LAST week Chairman NADRA met Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan to help ECP remove human errors in voter lists, amidst a hue and cry over inaccuracy of preliminary electoral rules, the Election Commission of Pakistan had approached the chairman NADRA seeking its help to use digital and technology tools to rectify human errors in voter lists.

The Election Commission of Pakistan finds itself in the middle of another needless controversy.

The Commission recently started displaying updated electoral rolls for public review and, as is quite normal.

There were some anomalies in them. Among those who were affected, some took to social media to claim that their polling stations had been moved to new locations, in some cases far away from their current place of residence.

Given the highly charged political environment and the one main opposition party namely PTI is objecting on the way-out of ECP’s work.

While technology and social media have helped the citizenry grow increasingly better informed of the electoral process, they have also brought with them their own set of problems.

In particular, the rapid spreading of misinformation on otherwise mundane issues has emerged as a key challenge.

It appears in this case that controversy arose because the ECP decided that for all voters whose addresses, registered with the ECP for voting purposes, were other than the ones mentioned on their CNIC, their permanent address according to the CNIC would be used.

The ECP says this decision had been taken in 2017 and voters were told to get their addresses updated by January 2018.

However, the ECP instead of responding to the controversy by simply explaining where the confusion was arising, only made matters worse by issuing a blanket denial that it had made changes to voters registration data.

Given the current climate, the ECP cannot afford to lose public trust. Clearly, there is a need for the ECP to be more transparent in its dealings with the public.

It also needs to bring its practices in line with modern times. In this regard, it can benefit from close coordination with NADRA, which maintains detailed data basis on citizens.

It is quite unhelpful to ask affected voters to visit ECP’s offices in person in case they want their registration data corrected when this can easily be done online or through a phone call from a number registered against the voters CNIC.

Local Government elections, which are slated to be held in Islamabad on July 31, could face a delay as the ruling PMLN and PPP have decided to increase the number of Union Councils from the current 50 to 101.

In this regard the Ministry of Interior issued a notification, increasing the number of the Union Councils.

The Election Commission of Pakistan had on June 2, issued a schedule for holding elections in 50 Union Councils of the capital on July 31.

Under the schedule over 1000 people had obtained nomination papers from the District Election office.

On the other hand, the two ruling parties recently filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court seeking a delay in the elections till the delimitation of the constituencies.

The court will take up the petition soon. If the court accepts the new notification of increasing Union Councils, the Election Commission will have to carry out a delimitation of the 101 Union Councils before issuing a new election schedule.

In such a case, the Local Government election could be delayed for a few months. As per my information the Election Commission of Pakistan is of the view that fixing the number of Union Councils is the prerogative of the federal government but the notification should have been issued before the issuance of the election schedule.

The Local Government completed its five years term in Feb 2021 and elections were slated to be held within three months, but they were not held as the then PTI government wanted to get the elections conducted on the basis of a new delimitation.

In a significant move, the Election Commission of Pakistan directed its staff to list the foreign funding case against the PTI as prohibited funding from now on.

The development came after Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, who was heading an ECP bench hearing the case, agreed with PTI lawyer Anwar Mansoor Khan’s stance that the case should be listed as prohibited funding, and not foreign funding.

The Chief Election Commissioner pointed out that the PTI had been using the term foreign funding for the case.

However, Syed Ahmad Hussain Shah, the Council for Akbar S Babar, contended that the Political Parties Order 2002 clearly classified a party funded by foreigners or foreign companies as a foreign aided political party.

Even the terms of reference of the ECP’s Scrutiny Committee mentioned it as PTI foreign funding case.

At the conclusion, the PTI lawyer thanked the CEC and other members of the ECP for their patient hearing and allowing him a full opportunity to present his arguments.

The case was adjourned till June 20 when Ahmad Hassan Shah would counter the final arguments of the PTI lawyer.

—The writer is former Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan and currently Chairman National Democratic Foundation.

 

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