HRCP Slams Post-Polling Process, Calls for Audit of 2024 Elections

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed serious doubts about the credibility and fairness of the general elections held on February 8, and demanded an independent audit of the polls under parliamentary oversight.

In a report released on Saturday, the HRCP said that the post-polling process was marred by irregularities, delays, and lack of transparency, which undermined the confidence of the voters and the candidates in the election results.

The HRCP, which deployed election monitors in 51 constituencies across the country, said that the nationwide suspension of internet and mobile services on the polling day, as well as the last-minute changes in polling information, created difficulties for the voters to find their polling stations and exercise their right to vote.

The report said that this situation especially affected women, persons with disabilities, senior citizens, and low-income voters, who faced mobility and accessibility challenges.

The HRCP praised the polling staff for being generally well-prepared and well-equipped, and said that the polling process itself was largely transparent and peaceful. The report noted that in most cases, the polling agents and candidates were shown the empty ballot boxes before polling, and the presiding officers stamped and signed the back of each ballot paper before giving it to the voter. The report also said that the ballot box was visible to everyone at all times, and the voters were able to cast their votes in secret.

However, the HRCP raised serious concerns about the post-polling process, which it said was unsatisfactory and questionable8. The report said that in 20% of the polling stations observed by the HRCP, the presiding officers did not display the statement of the count in a conspicuous place for public viewing, or did not send a photograph of the result to the returning officers and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The report also said that there were many allegations that the returning officers’ announcements did not match the presiding officers’ counts, and that some candidates, polling agents, and observers were denied the opportunity to witness the provisional consolidation of results.

The HRCP called for an independent audit of the 2024 elections under the supervision of a parliamentary body, and said that security and intelligence agencies should have no role in managing the electoral process or its outcomes. The HRCP also urged the parliament to debate the utility of the caretaker government scheme, and said that seamless cellular and internet services should be ensured on the polling day, including after the polling has ended.

The HRCP said that the ECP should publish all the forms related to the election results under the Elections Act 2017, and should order ballot recounts in close contests, especially where the number of rejected ballots exceeded the margin of victory.

The HRCP said that the integrity of the 2024 elections was compromised, not only by the incompetence of the ECP, but also by the constant pressure from extra-democratic forces and the questionable decisions by the caretaker government, which the HRCP had documented in the year before the polls.

The HRCP said that it was crucial for all parties to uphold and protect civilian supremacy through consistent, meaningful, and inclusive political dialogue, and said that the biggest losers of these elections were not any one individual or political party, but democratic values, the rule of law, and the aspirations of ordinary people.

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