Except for the horrible incident in Khairpur, which claimed 11 lives, and which will be unreservedly condemned by all parties, the election on Saturday was free from serious violence, said the HRCP.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) appeared to have worked hard for a smooth election process, although there were lapses, including delayed start in voting, brief suspension of voting in some polling stations, and misprinting of some ballot papers, added the HRCP. “We hope that it should not be too difficult for them to address these issues in the next phase of local bodies elections in Sindh and Punjab. Clashes between political rivals and snatching of ballot boxes in Okara could have been prevented through better management,” it observed.
Amid enthusiastic participation of citizens in the voting process, no efforts to deny women or members of religious minority communities their right to vote were reported. In some instances, male polling staff was assigned to women’s polling station. Generally, those queuing up to vote did not have to wait very long to cast their ballot, HRCP said.
Lack of proper arrangements for physically challenged voters was witnessed, especially in polling stations with polling booths on the first floor. However, the polling staff generally tried to facilitate such voters. Local bodies elections are supposed to serve as nurseries for democracy. However, the campaign expenses for Saturday’s elections appeared to be quite substantial. The costs involved are limiting the ability of common citizens to effectively contest elections.
The HRCP must wait for more evidence to assess the use of government and bureaucratic machinery in the elections, but the advantage of incumbency is quite evident already. Not just the ECP, but also the administration must learn from all these aspects to ensure that the second phase of local bodies elections in Punjab and Sindh is held in a smooth and violence-free manner.
The political parties and candidates also bear responsibility for adopting a democratic culture and step up to prevent clashes and violence and inculcate tolerance among their supporters. The HRCP will issue its full election monitoring report after more detailed reports are received from the districts that went to polls on Saturday.
Source : Daily Times , 1st Nov 2015