ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) can play a crucial role in reducing the rising rigging complaints from across the country by uploading the Form 45, the result of every polling station, on its website like it did 10 years ago in 2008.
The basic complaint is about the methodology of pushing the polling agents out of the polling stations before or during the process of counting and not giving them the statement of vote count, called Form-45.
The ECP vehemently denied this allegation saying there are no complaints of pushing the polling agents out of the polling stations filed with it and the Form 45 were given to all the polling agents at all places. “Whenever was received a complaint that Form 45 was not given to the polling agents, we contacted the concerned RO who confirmed to us that Form 45 was in fact given to the polling agents and that these complaints were wrong,” Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad, ECP Secretary told media. The ECP officials say that uploading form 45 on its website in mandatory for the ECP under the law. The Commission is legally bound to upload only form 47 under section 13(6) of the Elections Act 2017 which it has already did. Keeping aside viewpoint of the ECP, uploading Form 45, just like the commission did in 2008, will only improve its credibility.
Without going into the debate as to who is correct, the ECP or the complainants, one fact cannot be denied that a Form 45, which under the new system – RTS-- introduced this time (which according to ECP collapsed for only some time and later worked perfectly) has to reach to ECP first before going somewhere else. So if ECP is true, it is in possession of all the Forms 45 (results of all polling stations of all the National Assembly and provincial assemblies’ constituencies). By uploading all these Forms 45, ECP can prove all rigging allegation as untrue. Most importantly, once these Forms 45 are uploaded, the political parties will have to come up with precise and specific details as to how rigging was carried out and at which polling stations. If all Forms 45 are uploaded on the ECP website, the political parties will also have to tell for which polling stations, the vote count given on ECP web is different from the vote count provided to them by their polling agents. In case political parties couldn’t come up with these details, their allegations will carry no weight and ECP will succeed in proving the transparency and fairness of the polling process.
There are allegations that Form 45, which unlike ballot papers are not to be printed in millions but are in a few hundred thousands in number for the whole country, were not even delivered to polling stations under a well devised strategy. The News has confirmed from ECP officials, none of whom is ready to speak on record, that it is correct that Forms 45 were not sent to many polling stations in some selected constituencies due to unknown reasons. The same fact was also verified on ground on July 25. The digital record shows that reporters were reporting to their news organisations from different polling stations during the day time when polling process was underway that Forms 45 are not even provided till that time and ECP is not even entertaining requests to provide Form 45. The reason of not even distributing Form 45 to many of the polling stations in some selected constituencies is not known as yet as ECP is tight lipped. Because of the same reason, according to the allegations, results were given at some polling stations to the polling agents after their insistence or protest on blank papers, rough papers or on one side of cigarette packet paper.
Some PML-N leaders alleged that the security officials continued their duties after conclusion of the counting and pushed polling agents out of polling stations by force. The ECP can play a crucial role at this stage to save the credibility of the polling process by making everything transparent which can only be done by immediately uploading all Forms 45 on its website.
If the commission is truthful in its claim that the statement of political parties regarding non issuance of Form 45 are wrong and Form 45 were in fact given to all polling agents, it must upload all Forms 45 at the earliest on its website to prove the political parties and their rigging allegation wrong. This will add to the credibility of the ECP which is otherwise at risk at present.
This is a simple task of a few hours for ECP now as the RTS system which according to the commission collapsed for some time became operational later on and there is no task of scanning some 85,000 Forms 45 as images of all these Forms 45 have already reached ECP and those simply needed to be uploaded now. In 2008, all the Forms 45 were uploaded after properly scanning them and that was gigantic exercise at that time keeping in view the speed of internet, the low specification of the equipment etc. This time all Forms 45 are already scanned and ready to be uploaded.
When all Forms 45 were uploaded on ECP web in 2008, it was transpired that at some polling stations the total number of registered votes at that polling station were polled and were polled to MQM or PPP in the areas which were stronghold of MQM and PPP respectively. The uploading of Forms 45 in 2008 had exposed the pattern and level of rigging in some constituencies and these facts were established later on that polls in many constituencies of Karachi were completely rigged. ECP should be confident that nothing like that has happened this time and it should move forward to upload all Forms 45 in next 24 hours to prove the rigging allegations wrong.
Not only this, ECP has all the constitutional powers to take any step to ensure the transparency of the polling process. There are serious and substantial complaints of massive rigging in some Punjab and Karachi constituencies like those in Azizabad, Liyari, NA-249 etc. Without waiting for any election petition, the ECP can order an immediate inquiry for forensic examination of the election material. Such steps will give a positive message to political parties about the seriousness of ECP and doubts about election process will be minimised. But the question remains; will ECP dare to do that?