ISLAMABAD: The outgoing acting chief election commissioner, Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, who is also a senior judge of the Supreme Court, said on Sunday the apex court wanted to strengthen the Election Commission of Pakistan.
Talking to a group of journalists here at the ECP Secretariat, Justice Jan said the commission was ready to conduct both general as well as the local government polls. Justice Shakirullah Jan remained the acting chief election commissioner for nearly four months. The new chief election commissioner, Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ibrahim, will take the oath of office here Monday.
Jan dispelled the impression that ever since he assumed the office of the chief election commissioner, the Supreme Court has softened its stand towards the Election Commission, and said that the apex court wanted early completion of the voters’ lists.
He also did not agree with a reporter that the Election Commission had taken a lenient view of the irregularities in a Punjab constituency, where the son of PML-N senior leader Zulfiqar Khosa was a candidate. He explained that the events in the Dera Ghazi Khan constituency could not impact the electoral results but in Waheeda Shah slapping case, the situation was totally different and what she did could have become a norm in future elections if timely action was not taken.
Justice Jan explained how he monitored the preparation of fresh electoral rolls and interacted with the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra). He said that the printing of final electoral rolls (FERs) would be completed by July 24 while these would be dispatched within 24 hours.
Fully aware of the vital importance of registration of new (youth) voters, he called for induction of 1.58 million new CNIC holders, who had attained the age of 18 years, in the voters lists that pushed the database of registered voters to 84,365051. And this was done after thorough verification of new voters.
He pointed out that of these 47,773692 were male and 36,591359 female voters across Pakistan. In Balochistan, 18,86235 male and 1391929 female voters (total voters 3278164); in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 6929105 male and 5135492 female voters (total voters 12064597); In Sindh, 10214460 male and 8218417 female voters (total voters 18432877); in Punjab, 27297361 male and 21011283 female voters (total voters 48308644); in Islamabad, 325795 male and 279007 female voters (total voters 604802) and in Fata, 1120736 male and only 555231 female voters (total voters 1675697).
Taking notice of alleged irregularities in preparation of electoral rolls, as reported by the electronic media, he called an emergency meeting immediately after taking oath of office on March 24 this year and invited Nadra officials and Population Census Organisation and took some crucial decisions in this connection. Among other steps, he also constituted a coordination cell on April 07.
The coordination cell, in the light of the complaints received regarding irregularities in the electoral rolls of District Loralai, Kachhi and Killa Abdullah of Balochistan, where attempts were made to illegally register voters from across the country to specific areas of these districts by filling thousands of fake forms, did a hectic job and settled the issues.
In the same manner, different complaints were also received regarding Karachi Division and the acting CEC on May 5, 2012 constituted a complaint cell with PEC Punjab as its in-charge. The PEC Punjab probed the matter and resolved it to the satisfaction of all stakeholders in Karachi Division.
He also ordered for seeking Nadra’s technical assistance and, as a result, thousands of fake forms were nullified and strict action was ordered against 20 offenders involved in filling fake forms and complaints under Sections 468 and 471 of the Pakistan Penal Code were filed in the courts. This step will certainly help make error-free electoral rolls in future.
He showed video clips of the recently held bye-election in Multan, where the police and district administration were seen removing huge hoardings and wall-chalking and images of the vehicles ECP had hired for providing free transport facility to the voters for the first time in electoral history of Pakistan.
Replying to a question whether the code of conduct released was for bye-polls in Multan or would be binding on all stakeholders in future such exercises, Justice Jan said that the same code would be applicable for the upcoming Bannu provincial assembly seat.
He said he found the building and offices of the Election Commission in need of improvement besides better IT equipment, keeping in view its crucial importance as an electoral institution. About the electronic voting machines (EVMs), he said that these were not feasible so far as the environment in Pakistan was concerned and also noted that these would not be used for general elections late this year or early next year. However, these might be used in due course of time.