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Speed up Election Reforms, demands citizen groups 

08 Februarie 2012 06:46:20

 

Speed up Election Reforms, demands citizen groups

In a Public Forum organized by PILDAT on the state of Electoral Reforms in Pakistan, representatives of Citizens Group on Electoral Reforms urged the Government and Election Commission of Pakistan to speed up the process of electoral reforms in Pakistan well before the upcoming elections.

Representatives of CGEP included Mr. Abbas Khan, Former IG Police, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and member of Judicial Commission on Abbottabad, Dr. Ijaz Shafi Gilani, Chairman Gallup Pakistan, Mr. Shahid Hamid, Former Governor, Punjab, Dr. Moeed Pirzada, Director PTV, Lt. Gen (Retd.) Moinuddin Haider, Former Governor, Sindh, Mr. Tasneem Noorani, Former Secretary, Dr. Parvez Hasan, Advocate Supreme Court. Mr. Tariq Malik, Deputy Chairman, NADRA and Mr. Habibullah Khan, Joint Commissioner Census also participated in the Public Forum. The Forum was also attended by key analysts, representatives of media organizations and civil society members.

Briefing the participants on the state of Electoral Reforms in Pakistan, Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director-PILDAT said that the Election of Commission of Pakistan (ECP) prepared and unveiled a Five-Year Strategic Plan 2010-2014 on May 25, 2010. Under the Plan, a total of 129 objectives are listed under 15 Strategic Goals with a deadline for achieving each objective. 7 objectives do not have a specific deadline as these relate to recurrent activities; 76 objectives were scheduled to be achieved by December 31, 2011. The remaining 46 objectives are scheduled to be achieved after 31 December 2011 - some as late as December 2014.

The average overall progress made on 76 objectives, which were scheduled to be completed by December 31, 2011, is assessed to be 36 %. This is not satisfactory performance but the hopes remains that this assessment will prove to be a shot in the arm and the efforts to achieve progress as per the Strategic Plan will be expedited. The average overall progress made on 46 objectives, whose realization is due after December 31, 2011, is assessed to be 12 %. The overall progress on the Strategic Plan is estimated to be 48 % (36 % + 12 %) as of December 31, 2011.

Highlighting this progress, Mr. Mehboob said that the Legal Framework Committee formed by the ECP has completed the draft package of laws which now awaits the formal approval of the Election Commission before it is sent to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs for further processing. This was assigned a 33% progress score, while improvement in the Registration of Voters and preparation of credible, accurate, up-to-date and accessible Electoral Rolls process has made 75 % progress, elections operations has been improved 38%, while the organizational re-structuring of the ECP at the secretariat, Provincial, Divisional and Districts levels due for completion by April 2010 has only progressed 42 %. ECP has moved a summary to the Prime Minister for complete financial autonomy on the pattern of National Assembly and the Senate. This objective was to be realized by December. Another objective was to raise funds to the tune of US $ 100 million for the implementation of the ECP Strategic Plan between 2010 and 2012. Reportedly, no firm commitment has so far materialized and negotiation with donors like USAID, UNDP and CIDA are on-going estimating the progress at 28%. Improving the participation of marginalised groups including women, minorities and persons with disabilities in the Electoral Process has made 12 % progress, while 66% progress has been made in enhancing the participation of voters and improving Civic and Voter Education. In the meanwhile, 20% progress has been made on strengthening of participation of Political Parties and Candidates in the Electoral Process.

Mr. Tariq Malik, Deputy Chairman NADRA, in his address to the public forum congratulated PILDAT for their initiative of analyzing the state of Electoral Reforms in Pakistan at this crucial stage. NADRA advocates "one vote, one CNIC and one voter," said Malik in his opening remarks. He further added that credible elections depend on transparent electoral rolls. It is a prime responsibility of all stake holders to keep the sanctity of votes in the elections and to bridge the trust deficit between the executive, politicians, Elections Commission and voters. "In countries where civil registry is more than 80 % elections are held on this basis, therefore we will also try to implement the same pattern", said Deputy Chairman NADRA at the Public Forum.

Discussing the making of the electoral rolls, Mr. Malik said that NADRA had registered 96% of adults for CNIC as of today. NADRA's updated database is generated through a system of biometrics and pictures, decreasing the chance of duplications. NADRA and ECP have been working on the new plan of making new and transparent electoral rolls for four years. Highlighting the process of making electoral rolls, he said that we had identified four phases, including door to door verification of existing voter list. This phase was completed in 2010, while the second phase of printing of Draft Electoral Rolls-DER is completed by mid-December. The 3rd phase of printing of Preliminary Electoral Rolls-PER and the final stage of printing Final Electoral Rolls-FER are expected to be completed by 25 May 2012. NADRA has verified 44 million votes through a door to door verification process and found 37.1 million non-verified voters, including duplications, persons with no identity and old NIC etc. NADRA and ECP started the pilot project on the basis of 1998 census but after the 2011 census there was an increase in blocks from 105,000 to 140, 000 that delayed the process of verification of Electoral Rolls for 3 months. DER is printed on the basis of census. These are further verified house to house, but there were many challenges due to floods and the law and order situation in many parts of the country. Therefore, instead of receiving the DER on August 30, 2011, these were received in mid-December, 2011. Data entry is under process and PER will be prepared by February 23, 2012. ECP will display 65,000 public places for questioning. Final electoral rolls will be printed on 25 May 2012. The CNIC registered after May 2012 will be subsequently entered in the electoral rolls. Adding to the landmark changes, Mr. Malik said that CNICs data will be completely sunk with the voters list, photographs will be included and polling stations will be finalized before the election. Voter serial number will be available on the voter list, SMS service will be operated by NADRA to get information about polling stations, voting information and thumb prints will also be available to verify the voters.

Mr. Habibullah Khan, Joint Census Commissioner, said that Census Commission has completed five censuses in Pakistan, while the 6th census began in 2011. Housing census has been completed in April-May 2011 but the next phases are still pending.

Scope of census includes all of Pakistan, including FATA, G-B and foreigners like Afghan refugees, while overseas Pakistani are not counted in the census. For the census in 2011, the block size increased from 105,000 to 140, 000, while delimitation was performed by provincial governments. Discussing the hindrances, Mr. Habibullah Khan said that there were challenges in the census, including ethnic, tribal tensions and miscommunication of people. He further said that Census Commission will be able to produce a digitized mapping for identification of population.

Mr. Shahid Hamid, while speaking at the Forum, said that ECP should have been a part of the Forum to justify the delays in the implementations of the ECP Strategic Plan. While comparing the Indian and Pakistani Election Commission, he said that responsibilities and powers of both are the same but the difference is in practicing of authority. We are here to make ECP realize the importance of its powers and urge the ECP to practice its authority for better electoral reforms.

Mr. Ijaz Shafi Gilani referred to the Gallup survey that was conducted to seek an option for better governance in which 57 % people said that improvement will come through elections, while 36% noted that it will come through protesting on the streets. Slow and gradual process of improvement is more lasting while instant improvement cannot be last in the long run.-INFN