Category Archives: Media Coverage

Transparency & citizens participation in budget making process sought

PESHAWAR: The Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has launched “Study of Budget Making Process at District Level in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa” which called for transparency and citizens’ participation in the entire exercise.

The study revealed transparency and citizens participation in budget making process was found lacking at district level in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Budget Call letters were delayed, no consultation done with stakeholders; only five districts had functional websites and 110 posts remained vacant in district budget branches.

“Safar Welfare Organization and CPDI demand adherence to the “District or City District Government Budget Rules 2016”, transparency and citizens’ participation in the budget making process at district level in KP. First draft of the district budget should be presented in April to ensure timely input from citizens,” said Raja Shoaib Akbar, Senior Programme Manager at the CPDI, while sharing the details of the study with partner organisations.

Divulging the details, he said the local governments (LGs) had failed to include stakeholders in the budget making process.

The official said none of the districts released pre-budget statement that according to the budget rules was mandatory and would have provided the stakeholders a chance to express their opinion on budget proposals.

Pre-budget consultation with stakeholders was also not held in 33 per cent of districts. These consultations were mainly held with district officers and elected representatives, ignoring citizens and other segments of society that are listed as stakeholders in LG Budget Rules, he added.

According to budget rules Budget Call Letter (BCL) must be issued in September as first step of district budget making.

The study showed only one district had issued the BCL till November 15, last year while 17 others had not initiated it till March 31, this year. Consequently, only eight districts were able to approve own budget before June 30, 2017, he added.

Talking about budget transparency at Budget Consultation Organized by Safar Welfare Organization, Raja Shoaib said districts performance was not enviable at all.

Districts are not making use of information technology to share information with citizens; only five districts have own functional websites. Amongst them, only one has posted district budget of the last three years at its website.

The study said to aggravate the situation, not a single district issued a citizens budget which was meant to share the salient features of a final budget with citizens in easy to understand language.

The study revealed the budget branches in districts faced scarcity of human resource. Only 296 officials were posted in the budget branches of districts visited while total number of sanctioned positions was 406.

In addition, 11 districts did not have DDO Planning. This situation partially explained the reasons for delays in budget timelines at district level, he added.

Earlier, while welcoming the guests Shamsul Hadi, CPDI’s Provincial Coordinator in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said that budget was the most important policy document of the government. In the modern day state policies are supposed to be formulated through active public participation.

Survey on budget making process was conducted by member organizations of ‘Citizens’ Network for Budget Accountability (CNBA)’ in 24 districts of KP while one district didn’t provide information.

The CNBA is a network of 15 civil society organizations working for budget reforms and accountability at district level in KP.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/244380-Transparency-citizens-participation-in-budget-making-process-sought

Exit polls – the next big thing!

The recent experience of conducting exit polls in the by-elections for two National Assembly constituencies has yielded encouraging results, giving hope that the trend would further pick up in the 2018 general elections

 Exit polls have become part and parcel of elections in most of the developed countries, as well as in the neighbouring India. Since the late 1960s, when exit polls were first introduced, pollsters — usually private companies or research institutions working for or in collaboration with media groups — have been giving an early indication as to how an election has turned out because, in many cases, the actual result may take hours or even days to count. On the other hand, Pakistan is still grappling with the concept of exit polls though a few concrete steps have been taken in this direction in the recent past

Opposed to opinion polls, which are pre-election surveys to gather potential voters’ views on a range of issues, exit polls are sample survey of people after they have voted, as they leave their polling stations. Conducted to assess the support for political parties and their candidates, exit polls’ results are announced after the polling time ends so that any remaining voters are not unduly influenced. It should be stressed, though, that the results of exit polls are not certainties — surprises can occur that contradict the trend since exit polls simply offer a glimpse into the mind of the voters.

In Pakistan’s context, exit polls are particularly important since historically they have been used as a check on election fraud. If the sample size of an exit poll is large and truly reflective of the constituents’ demographics, a huge gap between its results and the official results may put a big question mark on the credibility of elections. This provides all the more reason to focus on exit polls in the 2018 general elections.

The voters in Pakistan have as yet not realised the importance of exit polls, so their cooperation with enumerators was lacking. Further, the security staff deputed at polling stations was not aware of the importance of the exercise and created hindrances.

The recent experience, albeit limited, of conducting exit polls in Pakistan shows how effective they could be in determining the ultimate winner and runners-up, as well as in indicating the preference of the voters along the lines of age, gender, education and profession. The Coalition for Elections and Democracy (CED) conducted the exit poll exercise in the two recent most by-elections for National Assembly constituencies — NA-120 (Lahore-III) and NA-4 (Peshawar-IV) — and the majority of its findings were vindicated by the official results.

Amer Ejaz, the brains behind CED, believes that an exit poll is an important tool to gauge how free, fair and transparent the elections are. “The results of an exit poll complement the results of parallel vote tabulation. If the two results validate each other, we can have a fair idea about the legitimacy of election results,” he adds.

In both NA-120 and NA-4, CED’s target sample size for the exit poll exercise was 2,000 voters. In the former, 1,433 (796 men, 633 women and 4 transgender) of these answered the questions (gender, for which party did they vote, age, educational qualification and profession) put to them, while the remaining 577 declined. CED observers interviewed the voters at 55 sampled polling stations (25 per cent) of a total of 220 as per a pre-defined methodology.

As per the results of the exit poll exercise conducted by CED in NA-120, announced within half-an-hour after the polling ended, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Kulsoom Nawaz was expected to win with 46 per cent of the total votes cast; while her closest rival, Yasmin Rashid of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), was predicted to bag 40 per cent of the votes.

The official results for this constituency reflected a similar trend. Kulsoom Nawaz won with 49 per cent of the total votes, while Yasmin Rashid bagged 37 per cent. The slight variation can be attributed to the challenge of respondent veracity or what has come to be known as ‘Shy Tory’ problem since 1992, whereby voters of a particular political party — in this case, the PML-N — either abstain from the exit poll or choose not to faithfully disclose for whom they have voted.

The same can be said about the voters of extreme right-wing parties such as the Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah and Milli Muslim League, whose candidates stood third and fourth with almost 7 per cent and 5 per cent of the total votes cast, respectively, though this was not reflected in the exit poll results. At the other end of the extreme, the PTI and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) voters were the most vocal in professing support for their party.

In NA-4, CED slightly revised its exit poll strategy to solicit responses from maximum number of voters, thus it was able to interview 1,742 (1,251 men and 491 women) respondents at 40 sampled polling stations (15 per cent) of a total of 269, while only 258 declined to answer. As per the results of the exit poll exercise, PTI candidate Arbab Amer Ayub was expected to sail through with 43 per cent of the total votes; while his closest rival, Khushdil Khan of the Awami National Party (ANP) was predicted to bag just 21 per cent of the votes, followed by Nasir Khan Musazai of the PML-N with 16 per cent votes, Asad Gulzar of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) with 9 per cent votes and Wasil Farooq of the JI with 8 per cent votes.

Although the PTI candidate comfortably won the election with 35 per cent of the total votes, his margin of victory was not as convincing as had been predicted by the CED exit poll. Interestingly, the ANP candidate who came second also got less votes (19 per cent) than the results of the exit poll had predicted. On the other hand, the PML-N and the PPP candidates got a larger percentage of the votes (19% and 10%, respectively) than anticipated, once again highlighting the ‘Shy Tory’ problem, which is understandable considering the country’s political context. Similarly, once again, the candidate of the Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah got almost 8% of the votes though the trend was not reflected in the exit poll.

The experience of conducting exit polls in these constituencies has also brought to fore some other interesting trends. For example, the youth and educated professionals are more likely to vote for the PTI; while the elderly and illiterate are more likely to vote for the PML-N in Punjab and the ANP in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Also, women in Punjab are more likely to vote for the PTI than their counterparts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The CED’s experience of conducting exit polls also shows that the selection of sample polling stations should be done with utmost care. For instance, they should not lie in the native areas or traditional strongholds of any of the major candidates; otherwise, the results will be skewed in his or her favour, as happened in the case of the JI candidate in NA-4. Also, exit polls are all about timely delivery of results and analysis and only the use of appropriate technology like mobile-based applications can make this possible.

“The voters in Pakistan have as yet not realised the importance of exit polls, so their cooperation with enumerators was lacking. Further, the security staff deputed at polling stations was not aware of the importance of the exercise and created hindrances. The Election Commission of Pakistan should recognise exit poll as an important tool of election monitoring and include it in election observation section of the Elections Bill, 2017; while civil society and NGOs should launch a nationwide exit poll exercise with the support of donors ahead of the 2018 general elections,” Amer Ejaz says.

Tehreek-i-Insaf retains NA seat in Peshawar by-election

PESHAWAR: The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf retained its National Assembly seat, NA-4, Peshawar IV, in Thursday’s by-elections as its candidate, Arbab Amir Ayub, defeated rivals by a big margin.

At the time of the filing of this report, the unofficial election results from 227 of the total of 269 polling stations compiled by the Election Commission of Pakistan through the new Result Transmission System (RTS) showed that Arbab Amir bagged 39,196 votes, Awami National Party’s Khushdil Khan 21,344 votes and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Nasir Khan Musazai 21,182.

The seat had fallen vacant in August after the death of dissident PTI MNA Gulzar Khan, who had won it in the 2013 general elections by receiving 55,134 votes.

The PML-N candidate was supported by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, whose candidate had obtained 12,519 votes in the 2013 elections.

Polling remains peaceful amid tight security

The performance of Pakistan People’s Party candidate Asad Gulzar and Jamaat-i-Islami’s Wasil Farooq Jan was dismal as the former secured fourth position and the latter sixth in terms of votes obtained.

Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan candidate Allama Dr Mohammad Shafique Ameeni, a new entrant to the electoral arena, fared better than JI’s candidate.

Overall, the polling was held in a peaceful environment as around 15 personnel of the Pakistan Army and police were deployed on every polling station. The police and army men were also deployed on rooftops and surroundings of polling stations.

Despite the massive door-to-door campaign by political parties, most polling stations didn’t see long queues of voters.

The polling process remained smooth and peaceful by and large, as the security forces didn’t allow the irrelevant people to enter the premises of polling stations.

The voters were barred from carrying cellphones into polling stations. Many of them showed reluctance in handing cellphones over to other voters.

For the first time in the country’s history, the ECP introduced the Result Transmission System for the quick dissemination of election results from polling stations by the presiding officer to the district returning officer.

Though the district administration had announced a public holiday in the constituency for the day, many daily wagers didn’t exercise their right of franchise for being busy with their routine work.

According to the polling staff members, the turnout was badly affected by the non-participation of labourers.

They said only five to 10 percent of voters in the constituency were government employees.

In some areas, the people’s votes were registered in polling stations away from their houses despite the presence of polling stations close to their localities.

All political parties had arranged vehicles to take voters to polling stations from their houses and drop them off back violating the code of conduct made by the Election Commission of Pakistan. Vehicles were seen with hoisting the flags and posters of parties while carrying voters to polling stations.

For the first time in the country’s history, the ECP conducted the pilot testing of the electronic voting machines in 100 polling booths, where demonstration of electronic voting was exercised. Each vote cast through the EVM took 20 seconds.

A presiding officer at the Hazarkhwani polling station said the use of EVMs in the next general elections would save the government’s money and the voters’ time.

“The government spends billions of rupees on the payment of honoraria to the polling staff in each election in the country, which will be saved after the introduction of EVMs,” he said.

The presiding officer said there would be no manual counting at the end of the polling time and instead, the electronic election results would be declared within seconds.

A total of 397,952 voters exercise their right of franchise in the by-polls. Among them were 235,127 men and 162,825 women.

The ECP had established 269 polling stations having 837 polling booths for the polling.

Meanwhile, the Coalition for Elections and Democracy observers, in its preliminary report, said the campaign material and campaign activity was seen outside majority of the NA-4 polling stations implying that the ECP’s code of conduct was not followed.

It sad at 25 percent sampled polling stations, voters were seen to be transported and ‘voter parchi’ was also distributed.

The observers also said the presence of campaign material and party camps within the restricted 400 yards of the polling stations was noticed at 62 percent polling stations.

They said it recorded a total of 119 violations of the election code of conduct and that wall chalking and a large size of banners and posters were the most common.

The observers said the wall chalking was observed in favour of independent candidate supported by the Milli Muslim League, PTI and PPP in the areas of Hassan Khattak, Shageeabad, Yousafabad, Telaband, Sheikhan, Mushtazai, Shaikh Mohammadi, Sulemankhel, Mashogagar, Badabhera, Maryamzai and Sherkera.

Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2017

https://www.dawn.com/news/1366571/tehreek-i-insaf-retains-na-seat-in-peshawar-by-election

95% of polling stations in NA-4 lack accessibility arrangements for disabled persons

PESHAWAR: Out of the total 269 polling stations set up for the NA-4 by-polls, 95 per cent lack essential accessibility criteria for people with disabilities [PWDs], elders and sick people, an audit report revealed.

The survey, conducted by sister foundation of Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, the Pakistan Alliance for Inclusive Elections [PAIE], through October 16 to October 22, found that only five per cent of the total polling stations were accessible while 42 per cent did not have obstacle free passage leading to the centre.

The report, seen by The Express Tribune, also found that 75 per cent of the buildings did not have level access to the entrance – adding that 93 per cent of those without level access also lacked a ramp to facilitate wheelchair users.

“In 12 per cent cases protruding objects outside the polling stations cause obstacle on the way while 98 per cent of the entrance gates are far wide enough to clear minimum standard of 32 inches,” the report stated while highlighting that smaller gates were likely to be opened than larger ones on the day of elections.

“If the ECP staff does not open larger gates for PWDs then all polling stations will automatically become inaccessible for them.”

The study also highlighted poor lighting. “Only 17.5 per cent of the polling stations possess exterior lighting arrangement, leaving 82.5 per cent sampled polling station entrance unlit at the time of low visibility.”

NA-4 by-polls: Years-long alliance against militants breaks up over political affiliation

While the research revealed 95 per cent of the polling stations do not meet the criteria, it also found that 87 per cent of these building could be modified to meet essential requirements with minor changes such as construction of ramps at entrance, leveling of pathway, removal of protruding objects from inside the building and allowing PWDs to pass through larger gates.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Raja Shoaib Akbar, senior programme manager at CPDI, said the study could help concerned departments to make polling stations accessible for everyone. PAIE members urged the ECP to resonate the changes before general elections 2018.

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1540845/1-95-polling-stations-na-4-lack-accessibility-arrangements-disabled-persons/

President urged to send RAI Bill 2017 back to Parliament

ISLAMABAD: Terming the newly passed Right of Access to Information (RAI) Bill 2017 restrictive, a civil society organisation has urged the president to resend the bill to Parliament for the review under Article 74 of the Constitution.

In a letter written to President Mamnoon Hussain, the Executive Director of CPDI Amer Ejaz highlighted the flaws in the RAI Bill 2017 saying that it did not guarantee free flow of information.

“We request you to use your powers under Article 74 of the Constitution and advise Parliament to review this bill in light of suggestions from civil society and RTI experts,” he wrote. The National Assembly of Pakistan passed Right of Access to Information Bill 2017 on October 2, 2017. The bill was originated in the Senate and was passed on August 22, 2017.

“The bill defies international best practices and against the norms set by international community for Right to Information Legislation,” the letter says adding that unless the bill is reviewed and certain sections are improved or replaced, the bill will not comply with the global best practices of Right to Information legislations.

Since the introduction of bill in the Senate, Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has been raising voice on various forums that the bill is restrictive in nature and will not serve the purpose of free flow of information, according to the aspiration of the citizens of Pakistan.

“The RAI Bill 2017 instead of drawing a narrow list of exemptions, declare a narrow list as public record and put most of information outside the public domain,” the letter reads. In RAI 2017, the power to apply “harm” and “public interest test” has been entrusted with the minister concerned. This is against the principal of justice that the minister is given the final powers to classify a record when minister is himself/herself a party in the case, it adds.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/235160-President-urged-to-send-RAI-Bill-2017-back-to-Parliament

CPDI applauses govt initiatives for Open Government Partnership

Islamabad :Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has applauded the initiatives of Ministry of Finance to form a multi-stakeholder forum to finalise the National Action Plan for Open Government Partnership.

The forum consists of representatives from provincial departments, federal ministries and civil society organizations. As a welcome step, all the four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK government have also been given representation in the forum. This will also pave the way in future for sub-national governments joining the OGP.

OGP is a multilateral forum and provide an “international platform for domestic reformers committed to make their governments more open, accountable and responsive to the citizens.” It was launched in 2011 and 75 countries have joined till date. Its aim is to secure concrete commitments from the governments to promote transparency, empower citizens and fight corruption. Pakistan joined OGP in December 2016.

The next step, after joining OGP, is to make a National Action Plan for 2 years depicting commitment that government will make to open up its institutions for the public. These commitments have to be discussed and finalised on a forum jointly represented by government and civil society. Pakistan first deadline to submit the NAP to OGP was quietly passed on June 30 this year without making enough headway towards the finalization of Plan. The deadline was later extended to October 31, 2017.

CPDI Executive Director Amer Ejaz said that the pace towards finalization of National Action Plan is slow and at present pace it will not be possible to meet the extended deadline either. It is imperative that all stakeholder gear up their efforts towards early finalization of Plan. He further expressed that membership of multi-stakeholder forum is highly weighted in favour of the government. Of 21 members of the forum, civil society has been offered only 6 positions in the forum. Another concern has been raised on the terms of reference of forum. The forum will examine and review the draft commitments received from federal lead ministries/provincial departments in the light of guidelines shared by OGP headquarters. Not enough discussion has been made at lead ministry level and the commitments received from lead ministries may not represent the views of civil society. CPDI has appealed the chair of the forum to initiate the exercise at lead ministry level so that civil society can make contribution while preparing the commitments.

Free flow of information not ensured in RAI Bill: CPDI

ISLAMABAD: Voicing its concern over the Right of Access to Information (RAI) Bill 2017 passed by the National Assembly on Monday, Centre for Peace & Development Initiatives (CPDI) has said that it does not ensure free flow of information.

“The RAI Bill 2017 is neither effective like the provincial right to information (RTI) laws nor in line with the globally accepted principles of RTI legislation. The two houses passed it without taking input from the civil society organisations and RTI experts,” CPDI Executive Director Amir Ejaz said in a statement here on Thursday.

Though, he maintained that the RAI Bill 2017 had some marked improvements over the Freedom of Information (FOI) Ordinance 2002, it still fell short of meeting key standards of effective RTI legislation.

“For example, instead of one narrowly drawn list of exempted information, the RAI Bill 2017 contained three separate lists: records that can be shared; records that cannot be shared; and records that can be shared but certain types of information, if contained in these records, will not be shared,” he argued.

Ejaz said the Pakistan Commission on Access to Information proposed in the RAI Bill 2017 should have been empowered to order public bodies to disclose the information if the disclosure was in public interest and outweighed the likely harm.

“How can minister-in-charge of the federal government name a document as classified, while this right should have been with the proposed commission?” Ejaz remarked.—PR

http://epaper.brecorder.com/m/2017/10/06/11-page/674702-news.html

CPDI applauses govt initiatives for Open Government Partnership

Islamabad :Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has applauded the initiatives of Ministry of Finance to form a multi-stakeholder forum to finalise the National Action Plan for Open Government Partnership.

The forum consists of representatives from provincial departments, federal ministries and civil society organizations. As a welcome step, all the four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK government have also been given representation in the forum. This will also pave the way in future for sub-national governments joining the OGP.

OGP is a multilateral forum and provide an “international platform for domestic reformers committed to make their governments more open, accountable and responsive to the citizens.” It was launched in 2011 and 75 countries have joined till date. Its aim is to secure concrete commitments from the governments to promote transparency, empower citizens and fight corruption. Pakistan joined OGP in December 2016.

The next step, after joining OGP, is to make a National Action Plan for 2 years depicting commitment that government will make to open up its institutions for the public. These commitments have to be discussed and finalised on a forum jointly represented by government and civil society. Pakistan first deadline to submit the NAP to OGP was quietly passed on June 30 this year without making enough headway towards the finalization of Plan. The deadline was later extended to October 31, 2017.

CPDI Executive Director Amer Ejaz said that the pace towards finalization of National Action Plan is slow and at present pace it will not be possible to meet the extended deadline either. It is imperative that all stakeholder gear up their efforts towards early finalization of Plan. He further expressed that membership of multi-stakeholder forum is highly weighted in favour of the government. Of 21 members of the forum, civil society has been offered only 6 positions in the forum. Another concern has been raised on the terms of reference of forum. The forum will examine and review the draft commitments received from federal lead ministries/provincial departments in the light of guidelines shared by OGP headquarters. Not enough discussion has been made at lead ministry level and the commitments received from lead ministries may not represent the views of civil society. CPDI has appealed the chair of the forum to initiate the exercise at lead ministry level so that civil society can make contribution while preparing the commitments.