Category Archives: Press Release

Fakhar Durrani wins RTI Champions Award 2017

ISLAMABAD: The News journalist Fakhar Durrani on Thursday won RTI Champions Award, 2017, for his investigative reporting based on Right to Information RTI Laws.

The award was conferred by Coalition on Right to Information (CRTI) in two categories–Journalist and Citizen. Fakhar won the award in Journalist category whereas Asif Munawar in the Citizen category, here at the National Press Club.

Former Federal Minister for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Senator Pervez Rashid, along with Senator Farhatullah Babar, presided the RTI Award ceremony.

Fakhar Durrani, the winner in the Journalist category, had made an effective use of the existing national and sub-national RTI legislation in the country to do his investigative stories, including on the parliamentarians who obtained medical treatment abroad from taxpayers’ money, HEC scholarships during the past five years and pensions of retired employees of the Ministry of Defence. In order to promote the culture of transparency and good governance, the journalists need to use this law regularly to make the rulers answerable, he said.

Asif Munawar, the winner in the Citizen category, hails from Jhang district. He filed a number of information requests under the Punjab Transparency and RTI Act, 2013, thus contributing to improving the quality of service delivery at local level.

Congratulating the winners, Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives Executive Director Amer Ejaz said that people of Pakistan are empowered by the Constitution of Pakistan to get access to information; however, the Freedom of Information Ordinance, 2002, and Right of Access to Information Bill, 2017, which seek to repeal FOI, 2002, is regretfully still restrictive in nature.

He also mentioned the need of appointing Punjab Information Commissioners and establishment of Sindh Information Commission. He encouraged all the citizens to use their right to know.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/233325-Fakhar-Durrani-wins-RTI-Champions-Award-2017

So-called ‘gods on earth’ unwilling to share info: Pervaiz

ISLAMABAD: Former federal minister for information Senator Pervaiz Rashid Thursday said some institutions in Pakistan discouraged the flow of information and most of information was not provided on the pretext of threat to national security.

Speaking at the RTI Award ceremony, he said, “God has revealed every important information to His subjects through the holy books. He didn’t hide anything from His subjects, but these so-called gods on the earth try to hide information from people”.

“Unfortunately, it is not easy to get access to information from all the institutions. Today’s democracy in Pakistan is away from transparency. Right of access to information is not protected and the relevant laws are not implemented. Most of the information is not provided on the pretext of threat to national security.

“We should have the right to know, who helped in the emergence of non-state actors, budget spent on their making and what amount of damage they caused. These non-state actors have become a liability for Pakistan, he said.

He said the RAI Bill 2017 will gradually promote the right of getting access and it will break the culture of secrecy. He was hopeful that in future there will be culture of asking and getting information from government. Implementation of RTI law is significant for transparency and the bright future of Pakistan, he added.

Speaking at the award ceremony, which coincided with the 15th International Right to Know Day, Senator Farhatullah Babar said the good RTI law should apply to all the institutions but the security establishment in Pakistan was the elephant in the room.

“The requested information is not provided on the basis of public interest and under the label of ‘secret and sensitive’. He also criticised the institutions for delayed RTI legislation and implementation and opined that the ‘Dawn Leaks’ was not the issue of national security; it was a candid discussion between the institutional heads. The government showed weakness by removing Pervaiz Rashid.

“Parliament is not solely responsible for delayed effective legislation on RTI. We raised and asked many question from Ministry of Defence but each time the answer was ‘Secret and Sensitive’. We (the Parliamentarians) sent a question to the Defence Ministry to inform us only if there was any inquiry held on the Kargil issue. The answer from the Defence Ministry was that it secret and sensitive. We did not ask the content of inquiry or any other details but just a simple question. We as a parliamentarians submit our assets declarations which are made public by the Election Commission of Pakistan. Similarly all government official also submits their assets declaration. But when we (Parliamentarians) asked if the Ministry of Defence had the assets declaration of Generals, the answer was ‘Secret and Sensitive”, commented Senator Farhatullah Babar.

Senator Babar feared that the RTI law might not get passed by National Assembly as some hidden elements were opposing it. He said there should be a balance between national interest and public interest. The RTI Bill still have room for improvement, he said.

“Parliament has the right to ask question if any government official is found involved in corruption, but despite being parliamentarians they do not get answers to their questions,” he remarked.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/233312-So-called-gods-on-earth-unwilling-to-share-info-Pervaiz

CRTI announces RTI Champions Awards 2017

ISLAMABAD: The Coalition on Right to Information (CRTI) conferred RTI Champions Awards 2017 on Fakhar Durrani and Asif Munawar in the ‘journalist’ and ‘citizen’ categories respectively, here at National Press Club on Thursday.

Speaking on the occasion, former federal minister for Information Pervaiz Rashid said that certain institutions in the country did not encourage free flow of information and it was not easy to get information from them. He regretted that mostly the requested information was not provided on the pretext of threat to national security.

“It is hoped that the Right of Access to Information (RAI) Bill 2017 being tabled in the National Assembly (NA) would gradually promote the culture of transparency in the country,” he said.

Speaking at the award ceremony, which coincided with the 15th International Right to Know Day, Senator Farhat Ullah Babar said the RTI law should apply to all the institutions. “The security establishment in Pakistan is the elephant in the room because it does not cater to information requests citing public interest,” he remarked.

Congratulating the winners, Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives Executive Director Amer Ejaz said that the constitution empowered the people of the country to freely exercise the right to information, but the proposed RAI Bill 2017 was restrictive in nature and limited in scope. He also highlighted the need for appointing Punjab information commissioner and establishing the Sindh Information Commission.

Fakhar Durrani, the winner in the journalist category, had made an effective use of the existing national and sub-national RTI legislation in the country to do his investigative stories, including on the parliamentarians who obtained medical treatment abroad from taxpayers’ money, HEC scholarships during the past five years and pensions of retired employees of the ministry of Defence.

Asif Munawar, the winner in the citizen category, hails from Jhang district. He filed a number of information requests under the Punjab Transparency and RTI Act 2013, thus contributing to improving the quality of service delivery at the local level.

CRTI announces RTI Champions Awards 2017

Senators say ‘certain institutions’ continue to place hurdles in access to information

ISLAMABAD: Admitting that certain institutions in the country lacked transparency and accountability, former information minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Senator Pervaiz Rashid said there were “some institutions” in the country which placed hurdles in access to information.

While speaking at a ceremony organised by the Coalition on the Right to Information at the National Press Club here on Thursday, Mr Rashid regretted that people were not granted access to information on the pretext of “national security”.

The PML-N senator said that several parliamentarians had asked questions regarding the judiciary, but had not received any reply. He said former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had vowed that martial law would never return to the country, however, Pakistan had continued to face long periods of martial law and the abrogation of the Constitution by dictators. He said the court had even allowed a military dictator to amend the Constitution.

The former minister said everyone had the right to know who created non-state organisations in the country and how much public money had been spent on them. He was of the view that the new Right to Information Bill would help promote a culture of freedom of information.

Parliament not even aware of law under which ISI has been functioning: Babar

Mr Rashid added that mere legislation would not serve the purpose as there was a need for enforcement of law in letter and spirit.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar, who had played a key role in the preparation and finalisation of the draft of the Right to Information Bill, squarely blamed security agencies for placing hurdles in the passage of the bill. He regretted that most of the information was not provided because it was termed “secret and sensitive.” He said that they had even written letters to the sensitive agencies to inquire about their concerns, but in return, they were advised not to proceed further with the bill as it dealt with “sensitive matters”.

Mr Babar said there were certain issues which could not and should not be asked from national security institutions, but questions regarding corruption by some officials of these institutions could be asked. He said parliament was not even aware of the law under which the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) had been functioning in the country.

Similarly, he added, parliament had not been provided a reply to a question regarding an inquiry into the 1999 Kargil debacle.

Mr Babar said it must be binding on every institution, including parliament and the judiciary, to provide information to the public.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2017

https://www.dawn.com/news/1360705

Election Observation Report (Counting Process) NA-120 (Lahore III)

 

Election Observation Report (Counting Process)

NA-120 (Lahore III)

Sunday (September 17, 2017)

This report is issued by Coalition for Elections and Democracy (CED) 1 for observing the counting process of bye-election in NA-120 (Lahore III). Total number of Registered voters in the constituency is 324786 including 179642 male voters and 142144 female voters. Total number of polling stations set up in the constituency is 220 including 39 polling stations with biometric verification. There are 102 male polling stations, 99 female whereas 19 polling stations are combined

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. However at the Polling Station # 23 Govt. Islamia High School, Sant Nagar the presiding officer didn’t allow the CED observers to witness the counting 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 around the sampled polling stations before start of the counting process.

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 minutes of the closing at average. The voters waiting to vote inside the polling station were allowed to vote.

The observers reported a number of discrepancies in closing process. Starting from sealing the slit of the ballot box for closing to compilation of the results. At 12 % of the sampled polling stations the observers reported that the staff did not seal the slit of ballot box while closing the polling. At same percent of sample polling stations the staff did not count the issued and unused ballot boxes to tally with the count of casted and issued ballot papers. While staff at 33% and 44% polling stations respectively did not record the number of issued and un-used ballot papers immediately after start of closing process, pending it till final filling of forms towards the end of the counting process. One observer reported from polling station #220 that the seal of the ballot box was not properly intact when it was brought to table for counting process. Observers reported from 23% polling stations that the polling staff did not cross check the number of ballots cast against the number of signatures on the counterfoil I.e. issued ballot papers. While during the counting process at one polling station #116 the presiding officer did not show the ballot papers while declaring them invalid.

Ironically 37% of the presiding officers of sampled polling stations did not paste the result outside the polling station for the public. However, at the 88% 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 except for one polling station already mentioned above. 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.

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1 CED is a civil society coalition for voter education, election observation and strengthening democratic institutions. Its secretariat is based at CPDI

Coalition for Election and Democracy
601 | Abu Dhabi Towers | Block B | F-11 Markaz | Islamabad | Pakistan

Tel: +92 (0) 51-8312794, 8312795 Fax +92 (0) 51 844 36 33

Election Observation Report (Voting Process) NA-120 (Lahore III)

 

Election Observation Report (Voting Process)

NA-120 (Lahore III)

Sunday (September 17, 2017)

This is a preliminary report issued by Coalition for Elections and Democracy (CED) 1. NA120 Election Marred by undue Strict Security Measures and Observers’ Unfriendly attitude by Security Staff.

This is a preliminary report issued by Coalition for Elections and Democracy (CED) for observing the election process in NA-120 (Lahore III). Total number of Registered voters in the constituency is 324786 including 179642 male voters and 142144 female voters. Total number of polling stations set up in the constituency is 220 including 39 polling stations with biometric verification. There are 102 male polling stations, 99 female whereas 19 polling stations are combined. This report presents the observation of the voting process of polling in the constituency. 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 57 % 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 difficult for persons with disability to cast their votes.

The observers reported that 48 % of the sampled polling stations have no problems in the vicinity of the polling station. In 52% of the sampled polling stations irregularities were reported in the vicinity of the polling station. These irregularities include display of campaign material within 200 meters of the 33 % sampled polling station during the voting process. The campaign material included party flags, posters banners and stall of caps resembling party flags. Voter parchi distribution and campaign activities were seen at the 66% and 44% of the sampled polling stations.

The election process was marred by resolute behavior of security officials. Security officials were seen inside the polling station monitoring the voting process. In Polling station # 46 Nain Qasad was sitting inside the polling station on request of Presiding Officer. The observers also noted the uninvited persons interfering with the work of the polling station staff.

Presence of unauthorized persons inside and outside the polling stations was also observed at all most all polling stations. A team of observers at PS# 75, 84, 157,158, 119,120 & 103 were not allowed to enter the polling stations to observe the voting process by security officials. The Observers team observed the alternate polling stations.

Observers reported that in PS# 191, both the Assistant Presiding Officer and Polling officer on Booth 2 were visually impaired. 7 voters complained to the army that there was no ink mark on their thumb while they have already casted vote. Upon this, Security Official threatened Presiding Officer to close the polling station. However there were no formal complaints lodged against it and the polling continued.

The CED observation teams reported that presence of polling agents on the polling stations during the voting phase remained higher than the opening phase. PTI and PMLN deployed the highest number of polling agents covering the sampled polling booths. People party representatives were present in a smaller amount at the sampled polling booths. JI had the lowest presence at the sampled polling stations.

On enquiry of the observers, presiding officers at 5 polling stations told that there was dearth of some essential polling material. At polling station #167 the PO said that the ballot papers were insufficient number and at PS # 124 the PO shared that envelopes for material were inadequate. The remaining polling stations complained the missing of minor stationery items.

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.

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1 CED is a civil society coalition for voter education, election observation and strengthening democratic institutions. Its secretariat is based at CPDI

Coalition for Election and Democracy
601 | Abu Dhabi Towers | Block B | F-11 Markaz | Islamabad | Pakistan

Tel: +92 (0) 51-8312794, 8312795 Fax +92 (0) 51 844 36 33

Exit Polls in NA 120 Bye-Elections Show Slender Lead by PMLN NA-120 (Lahore III)

 

Exit Polls in NA 120 Bye-Elections Show Slender Lead by PMLN

NA-120 (Lahore III)

Sunday (September 17, 2017)

The exit poll exercise conducted by Coalition for Elections and Democracy in national Assembly constituency NA 120 shows a slender lead for PMLN candidate Ms. Kulsum Nawaz. The survey was conducted on a sample size of 1433 voters including 796 males and 633 females and 4 transgender. The responses were collected from 55 sampled polling stations in national assembly constituency of NA120. Total number of polling stations in the constituency were 220.

The survey results show that PMLN bagged 46% of the votes against the 40% by closest rival of PTI candidate. PPP and JI could capture only 1.9% and 2.6% votes respectively.

The further analysis also shows some very interesting trends. The gender analysis of the exit pool result shows that 47% of the male cast their votes in favour of PMLN and 37% males voted for PTI. The share of PPP and JI amongst male voter remained 2.4% and 2.3% respectively. As for female voters, 44.2% voted for PMLN and 43.7% for PTI. Both PPP and JI could attract only 1.2% and 3% respectively.

The voting activity also has clear connection with educational qualification of the voters. Among the 242 illiterate voters, PMLN has a clear lead with 61% votes. PTI could bagged only 20% of the illiterate voters. The share of PPP and JI among illiterate voters was 3% each. A similar trend continues with voters with educational qualification of primary and matric. PTI starts gaining lead amongst the candidates with higher educational qualification. PTI share amongst graduate voters 57% which increases to 76% for voters holding master degree. PTI share for voters having M.Phil/Ph.D degree is 77%.

The voter choice also indicates a connection with the age group. PTI is the choice of younger age group with the support of 50 % voters in age group 18-22 years and 48% voters with 23-35 age group. Of both of these two age groups, PMLN share was 40%. This difference is not as sharp as was usually considered in absence of such data. PMLN has a clear lead among age groups from 35-50, 50-65 and above 65 years.

Talking about the profession, PMLN enjoys majority within daily wager, low paid industry workers and small businessmen whereas PTI has clear lead among students and professional degree holders.

The exit poll results are prepared with utmost care; however, it can have a margin of error up to 20%.

Coalition for Election and Democracy
601 | Abu Dhabi Towers | Block B | F-11 Markaz | Islamabad | Pakistan

Tel: +92 (0) 51-8312794, 8312795 Fax +92 (0) 51 844 36 33

Election Observation Preliminary Report (Opening) NA-120 (Lahore III)

 

Election Observation Preliminary Report (Opening)

NA-120 (Lahore III)

Sunday (September 17, 2017)

This is a preliminary report issued by Coalition for Elections and Democracy (CED) for observing the election process at NA-120 (Lahore III). Total number of Registered voters in the constituency is 324786 including 179642 male voters and 142144 female voters. Total number of polling stations set up in the constituency is 220 including 39 polling stations with biometric verification. There are 102 male polling stations, 99 female whereas 19 polling stations are combined. This report presents 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 most of the sampled polling stations the polling staff cooperated with the observation teams. However at polling station #84 (Shining High School St # 4, Amin Park, Lahore) entry was denied to the observer despite the fact that observer was in possession of ECP accreditation card.

At the approach of the pooling stations the observers noted the environment outside the polling station. 22 % 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 45% of the polling stations. Presence of party camps near the polling stations was also observed.

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 77% of the sampled polling stations started late with delay of 11 to 30 minutes; major cause of delay was unpreparedness of the polling staff. 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 not found suitable for 45% of the 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 (where the observers entry was allowed), 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 PML(N) had maximum presence with polling agents deployed at the sampled polling booths. While JI has the lowest presence (among major political parties) of polling agents at the sampled polling booths.

The observers also reported presence of unauthorized persons inside 45% of the sampled polling stations. At polling station #184 (Govt Staff Training Collage Dave Samaj Road Sanat Nagar Lahore) uninvited security personal were seen. At polling station #116 Rana Girls High School Shumshi St. Ibrahim Road, Lahore uninvited security personnel and local officials were seen inside the polling station. The Army officials were reported to apparently interfering in the work of PS staff in these two polling stations

The observers reported their satisfaction about cooperation of the PS staff. At 90% 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.

Coalition for Election and Democracy
601 | Abu Dhabi Towers | Block B | F-11 Markaz | Islamabad | Pakistan

Tel: +92 (0) 51-8312794, 8312795 Fax +92 (0) 51 844 36 33