Category Archives: 2017

Activists demand effective right to information bill

A group of activists in Islamabad protested on Thursday over the recently passed ‘Right of Access to Information Bill 2017’, claiming that the bill in its current form was weak and restrictive.

Activists from the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) along with other activists gathered outside the National Press Club and protested against the bill.

They expressed concerns over the bill which had been approved by the Senate earlier on May 29, 2017. They emphasised that in its current form it was ineffective and prohibitive like the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002, which it seeks to repeal.

It was also highlighted that access to information was facing a massive challenge, especially at the federal level. They urged that the RTI Bill 2017 approved by the Senate should be revisited after taking suggestions from civil society organisations, information experts and journalists.

They further insisted that it was high time that the citizens are empowered with their constitutionally guaranteed right of access to information and hoped that the newly appointed prime minister, unlike those in the past, would pay heed to the matter.

CPDI Executive Director Amer Ejaz said that the Right of Access to Information Bill 2017 falls short of meeting key standards of effective right to information legislation such as defining one clear and a narrowly drawn list of exempted information and the rest should be declared public.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2017. 

Election Observation Report (Counting Process)

NA-260 (Quetta-Cum-Chaghi-Cum-Noshki)

This report is issued by Coalition for Elections and Democracy (CED) for observing the closing and counting process at NA-260 (Quetta-Cum-Chaghi-Cum-Noshki). Total number of Registered voters in the constituency is 460202 including 274367 male voters and 185835 female voters. Total number of polling stations set up in the constituency is 407 with 993 polling booths; 571 for male voters and 422 for female voters.

The official closing time of the polling is 5pm. The CED teams made sure to enter the sampled polling stations before the closure of voting process. While entering the polling stations for observation of the closing and counting process the observers also reported about the situation outside the polling stations. It was observed that party workers had gathered in sizeable numbers at around 50% of the sampled polling stations before start of the counting process. At the time of closing no queues of voters were seen outside the polling stations to vote.

All the sampled polling stations closed on the official time i.e 5pm. The polling staff started the closing process immediately and the counting started within 10.5 minutes of the closing at average. The counting process took 42.5 minutes on an average to complete at the sampled polling stations.

Undue haste in the closing and counting process at the sampled polling stations was seen. The observers reported that on at least 50% of these polling stations the polling staff neither counted the counterfoils to tally with the number of ballots in the ballot box nor did they count the total number of ballots in the ballot box before sorting them. At majority of the sampled polling stations the polling staff sealed the ballot boxes at the time of closing however at PS#24 the staff did not close and seal the slit of the ballot box at the end of the voting process. The staff on the same polling station neither showed the choice on the ballot papers to polling agents and observers nor did they announce the choice aloud. Counting of 201 ballots was wrapped up in just 15 minutes at PS#24, reported the observer. However, the CED observers noted that the polling staff was careful in handling the invalid ballots and at all sampled polling stations the presiding officer showed the ballot papers to the polling agents and observers before declaring them invalid. At the same polling station, the presiding officer did not completely fill the ECP forms in presence of the polling agents except the form 14 and the polling agents and observers were asked to leave the polling stations so that the staff could compile the remaining forms. At PS #66 also, the observer reported that the polling staff did not give a second count to the sorted ballots, indicating haste on the part of the PS staff.

At majority of the polling stations no unauthorised persons were seen during the counting process, however, at PS#231 uninvited security personal were seen inside the polling station. One incident of overcrowding and mismanagement affecting the counting process was also reported by the CED observer from PS#131.
Presiding officers of 75% sampled polling stations pasted the result outside the polling station for the information of the general public. However, on all the sampled polling stations the presiding officers gave copies of the result (form 14) to the poling agents.

The observers noted that during counting process no representatives of the candidates lodged formal complaints at the sampled polling stations.

The polling staff cooperated with the CED observers during the counting process. All the observers were allowed to sit in the counting room without any restriction. The presiding officers of all the sampled polling stations answered all questions related to counting process and shared details of the vote count with observers.

Election Observation Report (Voting Process)

NA-260 (Quetta-Cum-Chaghi-Cum-Noshki)

This report is issued by Coalition for Elections and Democracy (CED) for observing the voting process at NA-260 (Quetta-Cum-Chaghi-Cum-Noshki). Total number of Registered voters in the constituency is 460202 including 274367 male voters and 185835 female vot-ers. Total number of polling stations set up in the constituency is 407 with 993 polling booths; 571 for male voters and 422 for female voters.

The CED teams initiated observation of the voting process right from the opening of the polling stations. Complete staff was present on all the sampled polling stations observed during the day.

The observers reported at the approach of the polling station that 65 % polling stations were not accessible for the voters with reduced mobility. Some of the polling stations were set up well above the ground level with no access roads leading to the building making it even more difficult for persons with disability to cast their votes. For instance, a polling sta-tion (# 235) in Sarangzai area was situated on a hill, far from the road and was totally isolat-ed and inaccessible for the persons with reduced mobility.

The voting process remained slow throughout the day indicating a low turnout. Though people had gathered in queues at 40% of the polling stations at the start of the day but this flow of the voters didn’t hold for long. Voting average per polling booth per hour remained 15 votes during the initial hour of the day but later on this average further declined. At 4:45 pm when the observers sent their last observations for the voting process the hourly aver-age for full day further declined to 12.7 votes.

The voting process generally remained calm during the day, observers from 70% of the sampled polling stations reported that no problems were observed in the vicinity of the poll-ing station. At polling station number 26 in Killi Ahmad Khanzai the observer reported un-rest at the polling station gate due to display of party flags by one of the major contesting parties. Largely presence of campaign material inside the polling stations was not reported however voters were seen inside the polling stations wearing caps that resembled party flags. Campaign material was seen within 200 meters of the 20% sampled polling station during the voting process. The campaign material included party flags, posters banners and stall of caps resembling party flags.

Presence of unauthorised persons inside the polling stations was also observed. At PS# 26, 28 uninvited security officials were seen while at PS# 235, 229, 231 and 32 uninvited secu-rity personnel as well as local officials were seen. The observers asked the presiding offic-ers (POs) about presence of uninvited officials at the said polling stations. All the POs con-firmed that they had not called these officials inside; they also replied in negative when in-quired whether they had asked any of these uninvited officials to leave the PS area. How-ever, the observers did not see any of the uninvited persons interfering with the work of the polling station staff.

Observers reported two incidents of lodging formal complaints at the sampled polling sta-tions during the time of their presence. Both the complaints were reported from the Killi Ahmad Khanzai area (PS#25 and 26) where one party complained to the POs about at-tempts to cast double or fake votes by other party. The observer also observed unrest and tension inside the polling station# 26 due to these incidents / claims.

The CED observation teams reported that presence of polling agents on the polling stations during the voting phase remained higher than the opening phase. JUI (F) and PKMAP de-ployed the highest number of polling agents covering 86% of the sampled polling booths. BNP and Peoples party representatives were present at 53% while PTI had presence of its polling agents at 60% of the polling booths. PML (N) and National party had the lowest presence at the sampled polling stations being 26% and 20% respectively.

When the CED observers asked the the POs if there was any essential material missing, two of them replied in yes. At polling station #135 the PO said that the stamps were not provided in adequate number and at PS # 229 the PO shared that some of the ECP forms were lacking in the packet issued to him.

The security situation generally remained in control of the law enforcement agencies and no major law and order situation came up at the sampled polling stations during observation.

Election Observation Preliminary Report (Opening)

NA-260 (Quetta-Cum-Chaghi-Cum-Noshki)

This is a preliminary report issued by Coalition for Elections and Democracy (CED) for observing the election process at NA-260 (Quetta-Cum-Chaghi-Cum-Noshki). Total number of Registered voters in the constituency is 460202 including 274367 male voters and 185835 female voters. Total number of polling stations set up in the constituency is 407 with 993 polling booths, 571 for male voters and 422 for female voters. This report presents the the observation of the opening process of polling in the constituency.

The observation teams reached the designated polling stations at 7:30 am to observe the preparedness of the poling staff and the opening process of voting at the polling stations. At all the sampled polling stations the polling staff cooperated with the observation teams however the security staff at polling station #47 (Government College of Education Nasirabad) stopped the observer on the gate despite ECP accreditation card, asking him to show authority letter from the ECP. Later on the issue was resolved amicably.

At the approach of the pooling stations the observers noted the environment outside the polling station. 40 % polling stations had queues of voters outside the gate before opening of the voting. Observers reported that campaign material and campaign activity was seen outside 40% of the polling stations. Presence of party camps near the polling stations was also observed. Two party camps were seen within 200 meters of the PS#119 (Government Boys High School Kili Nasaran).

Situation outside the polling station before the start of the polling stations was generally calm however one observer reported that party workers were chanting slogans against each other outside the polling station #109 (Government High School Kotwal), the security forces intervened and the situation did not escalate; it caused a delay of 10 minutes in start of the voting process, though.

The polling staff was present on the sampled polling stations at the starting time of the voting process. It was observed that female staff had been deputed on the polling booths designated for the females.

Starting time of the polling is 8 am however 40% of the sampled polling stations started late with delay of 1 to 10 minutes; major cause of delay was unpreparedness of the polling staff however at one polling station the delay was caused due to unrest outside the polling station. The polling station lay out at the start of the polling was generally found to be suitable for voting at all the sampled polling stations.

Essential polling material i.e ballot boxes, secrecy screens, seals, indelible ink, voters’ lists etc was present at all the polling stations. All the polling stations had sufficient number of ballot papers. The presiding officers at the sampled polling stations told the observers that ECP had provided them adequate number of ECP forms, envelops and the tamper evident bags to document the polling information and preserve the polling material.

The polling staff carried out the opening procedures at 100% of the sampled polling stations, the empty ballot boxes were shown to the polling agents and sealed in their presence. The polling started at all polling booths in presence of the poling agents from major political parties. The CED observers were allowed to observe the opening process without any restrictions.

Though major parties have tried to deploy their polling agents at polling stations but a lot of polling booths still lacked presence of some of the major parties’ polling agents. An analysis of preliminary data available at the starting time of the polling shows that PKMAP had maximum presence with polling agents deployed at 81% of the sampled polling booths. While National party has the lowest presence with its polling agents deployed at 36% of the polling booths. BNP, JUI (F), and PTI had their polling agents present on 72% sampled polling booths while PML (N) deployed its polling agents on 54% of the observed polling booths.

The observers also reported presence of unauthorised persons inside the polling stations. At polling station #3 (Government Boys High School Sabzal) uninvited security personal were seen, at female polling station # 232 (Government Rest House Hanna) uninvited security personnel and local officials were seen inside the polling station. The unauthorised persons were not reported to apparently interfere in the work of PS staff.

Observing the complaint lodging and handling at polling stations one observer reported that formal complaint was lodged at PS#109 where the party workers had gathered outside the polling station and chanted slogans. The situation was handled amicably and the crowd was pacified before opening the polling station, it caused ten minutes delay in start of the polling.

The observers reported their satisfaction about cooperation of the PS staff, at 100% sampled polling station the observers were allowed to observe the opening procedure without restriction. The opening process was carried out in front of the party representatives and no restriction to that effect was observed by the observers.

Election Observation Report PS114 (Counting)

This report is issued by Coalition for Elections and Democracy (CED) for observing the ballot counting process of the by-election held at PS 114 – Karachi XXVI on July 9, 2017. Total number of polling stations set up in the constituency is 92 with 368 polling booths. The CED teams were present in the sampled polling stations before the official closing time i.e 5 pm.

The official closing time was observed in the majority of the polling stations however two of the sampled polling stations closed 11-30 minutes late due to late opening at the start of the day, reported the CED election observers deployed in PS114. Following the procedure the polling staff allowed the voters lined up in the polling stations to vote after closing time. The counting process started at majority of the sampled polling stations between 5:15 pm and 5:45 pm however at one location it was delayed to 6:30pm due to (i) late closing of the polling station, (ii) long queue of voters inside the polling station at the closing time. At majority of the sampled polling stations counting process ended between 7:30 pm and 8:15 pm, the latest being at 9:25 pm.

The observers while entering the polling stations before closing time reported that there were large crowds of political workers outside 60% polling stations but this did not call for any untoward incident and closing and counting process was completed smoothly.

One of the major incidents reported in the “voting process report”, buying of votes was still being rumoured in the locality of Chanesor while observer was entering the polling station to observe the closing process.

The counting process was observed by at least three different observer groups while the polling agents of the major political parties were also present. The CED observers were allowed without any restriction to observe the counting process. At one polling station the observer reported that the counting room was over crowded with polling staff, polling agents and observers resulting in delay in completion of the process.

CED observers reported that the polling staff at all the sampled polling stations observed the closing protocols. The ballot boxes were sealed in front of the polling agents and the observers, once the polling ended. The polling staff filled the required ECP forms14 and 15 while completing the vote count.

The lodging of formal complaints remained a low priority of the parties even during the counting process; only one incident of complaint during counting process at the sampled polling stations came up that was dealt with by the polling staff according to the procedures, reported the observer.
The presiding officer compiled the results and provided copies to the polling agents at all sampled polling stations. CED observers also obtained Form-14 i.e the result count from their designated polling stations. However, it was observed that only 40% of the presiding officers displayed the result outside the polling station. All the presiding officers provided details to the observers about number of ballot papers received from ECP, number of ballot papers used during poling and details of spoiled votes but only 20% of them shared copy of Form-15 upon request of the observer.
After completion of the vote count the overall turnout at the sampled polling stations remained 33.5%.

Election Observation Report PS114 (Voting)

This report is issued by Coalition for Elections and Democracy (CED) for observing the vot-ing process at PS 114 – Karachi XXVI. Total number of polling stations set up in the constit-uency is 92 with 368 polling booths. The CED teams initiated observation of the voting pro-cess right from the opening of the polling stations.

The observation at the approach of the polling station revealed that 60% polling stations had queues outside the premises. A large number of polling stations (83%) were not acces-sible for the voters with reduced mobility. Some of the polling stations were on the first floor making it even more difficult for persons with disability to cast their votes.

The voting process remained slow at the start of the day with average of 53 votes casted per polling station in the first hour of the polling. These statistics improved later during the day and by 4:30pm the average of the votes casted per polling station reached 75 votes per hour.
The voting process generally remained calm during the day. However, at polling station number 86, 79 and 90 incidents of unrest and violence were reported. No incidents of cam-paign material inside the polling station were reported however campaign material includ-ing, banners, posters and party flags was seen within two hundred meters outside the poll-ing stations at many places.

Presence of unauthorised persons was also observed at few polling stations; three such incidents were reported in a sample of 25 polling stations. At a polling station in Malir Govt. Girls Secondary School KAECHS block 4 (combined), party office bearers were seen inside polling station while in another polling station uninvited po-lice officials were seen.

The observers reported two incidents of serious nature outside the polling stations during poling hours. However, poling activity continued without any hindrance. In both cases peo-ple told that a party was trying to buy votes. Both the incidents happened in Chanesor vi-cinity.

Observers noted that the parties and the polling staff did not show inclination towards mak-ing formal record of the violations. None of the parties / candidates lodged formal com-plaint of the untoward incidents to the presiding officer. Polling staff also did not have any record of these incidents in their documents. This was revealed when the CED observes asked the presiding officer about any formal complaint being lodged by the parties or any action taken by the presiding officer against anyone during the voting process.

Presence of polling agents on the polling stations during the voting phase remained little higher than the opening phase. The CED observation teams reported that polling agents were present at all polling booths. However, Jamat-i-Islami had the highest number of de-ployment of polling agents covering 93% of the polling booths during the voting process whereas JUI (F) remained the lowest deployer of the polling agents with covering only 13% polling booths. PPPP, MQM, PML(N) and PTI deployed their polling agents at 90%, 89%, 82% and 72% polling booths respectively during the voting process.

The observers reported complete attendance of polling staff at the sampled polling stations during the voting process. Gender sensitivity in deployment of the polling staff by the ECP was observed by the CED team and all the female booths were reported to have female polling staff, however majority of the presiding officers were male.

The security situation generally remained in control of the law enforcement agencies and no major law and order situation came up at the sampled polling stations during observation.

Election Observation Preliminary Report PS114(Opening)

This is a preliminary report issued by Coalition for Elections and Democracy (CED) for observing the election process at PS 114 – Karachi XXVI. Total number of polling stations set up in the constituency is 92 with 368 polling booths. The observation teams reached the designated polling stations at 7:30 am to observe the preparedness of the poling staff and the opening process of voting at the polling stations.

The polling staff was present on the sampled polling stations at the starting time of the voting process. It was observed that female staff had been deputed on the polling booths designated for the females; however majority of presiding officers was male.

Starting time of the polling is 8 am however 60% of the sampled polling stations started late with delay of 11 to 30 minutes; major cause of delay was unpreparedness of polling staff where staff took extra time to set up the polling booths and take positions to initiate the voting process. The polling station lay out at the start of the polling was generally found to be suitable for voting; 80% observers reported that.

The preliminary report reveals adequate polling material was provided at majority of polling stations, though at one polling station the presiding officer claimed that slightly less number of ballot papers as compared to the total number of registered voters was issued by ECP. Presiding officer of one polling station in Malir received 1500 ballot papers against 1966 registered voters shown in the polling scheme available at ECP website. Upon query by CED observer, he clarified that the updated voters list provided to him contained only 1067 registered voters and he had sufficient number of ballot papers to conduct the polling. This shows a polling data available at ECP website does not conform with the voter list provided to poling staff to conduct the elections.

The polling staff carried out the opening procedures at 100% of the sampled polling stations, the empty ballot boxes were shown to the polling agents and sealed in their presence. The polling started at all polling booths in presence of the poling agents from major political parties. The CED observers were allowed to observe the opening process without any restrictions.

Though major parties have tried to deploy their polling agents at polling stations but a lot of polling booths still lacked presence of some of the major parties’ polling agents. An analysis of preliminary data available at the starting time of the polling shows that MQM-Pakistan had maximum presence with polling agents deployed at 85% of the sampled polling booths. While Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) has the lowest presence with its polling agents deployed at 25% of the polling booths. Peoples party, PML (N), Jamat-e-Islami, and PTI had their polling agents present on 80%, 70%, 65% and 50% sampled polling booths respectively at the opening of the polling stations.

The 80% observers rated the overall conduct of the opening process at the polling station to be good and by the book. There was no untoward incident reported at and around the sampled polling stations upon the opening of the voting. However one of the observers reported unrest and tension building up in and outside of the polling station while she was leaving a polling station situated in Chanesor Village.