Friday July 12, 2024

Electioneering at full steam, to end at midnight today

ECP warned that any candidate, who would organise or participates in any meeting, procession, corner meeting or any such political activity after the deadline

By Mumtaz Alvi
February 06, 2024
The Election Commission of Pakistan signboard can be seen in this picture. — AFP/File
The Election Commission of Pakistan signboard can be seen in this picture. — AFP/File 

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced on Monday that electioneering would end at 12 on night between February 6 and 7, 2024.

The ECP issued a notification in this regard, citing Section 182 of the Elections Act 2017, which prohibits any political activity after the specified time period. Section 182 of the Elections Act, 2017 reads: “Prohibition of public meetings during certain period: No person shall convene, hold or attend any public meeting, or promote or join in any procession, within the area of a constituency or, in the case of the Senate election, a Province, during a period of forty-eight hours ending at midnight ‘following’ the conclusion of the poll for any election in that constituency or Province”.

Likewise, Section 183 reads: “Penalty for illegal practice: A person guilty of the offence of illegal practice shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to one hundred thousand rupees or with both”.

The ECP warned that any candidate, who would organise or participates in any meeting, procession, corner meeting or any such political activity after the deadline, would face legal action. The commission sought cooperation of the media and the public to ensure a free, fair and transparent election process.

Separately, ECP Election Management System (EMS) Project Director Colonel Saad said on Monday a special network had been created, while employing all international security standards.

Briefing the media about the EMS here, he brushed aside the concerns that the system might be hacked or results could be changed. He explained that the ECP had its own private network, and the system was not available on the internet. He dismissed the possibility of hacking of the system.

He said only specific persons would be able to have access to the EMS, for which a dedicated network operation centre had been established. “We have also got white-listed the mobile phones of presiding officers and everyone will not be able to access or use it,” he added. About a letter written by a returning officer (RO) of NA-197, he said his concerns had been addressed. He said had the RO contacted the district returning officer or approached the ECP helpline, his issues would have been addressed earlier. “However, I have talked to him and afterwards, he stated that the EMS is working very fine,” he added.

He said that 3000 laptops had been made available for EMS and 3,600 software operators hired and trained to facilitate the returning officers throughout the country. The project director said it was difficult right now to tell how much would be the total cost of the EMS. He said it was also not possible to give any final timeframe how long it could take for arrival of results.

However, he said five trials were conducted at different stages regarding the EMS and problems identified or confronted on the system had been resolved. He added that satellite connections had also been provided to the ROs.

ECP Info-Tech Director General Khizar Hayat said the EMS technology had been upgraded and it had been previously used in 40 elections. He said the presiding officer would send the results to the returning officer through the EMS. “If there is any issue in delivery of results, the presiding officer will personally convey the results to the returning officer. The EMS will immediately detect any changes in the results,” he added.

The National Operations Centre, he pointed out, had been built in accordance with the world standards, and that several power backups had been created to run the system, whereas the EMS backup servers are with NADRA [National Database and Registration Authority], which has 24 years of experience and resources from the government of Pakistan.

Earlier, a spokesman said the ECP smoothly conducted another mock test of the Election Management System (EMS), successfully achieving all the required steps and goals. He said demonstrating consistent speed and efficiency in both online and offline modes, the exercise affirmed the EMS’s full operational capability and effectiveness.

ECP Secretary Dr Asif Hussain said the presiding officer would send only a picture of the form on the EMS, adding that there could not be a simpler system than the EMS for elections.

The ECP has completed the delivery of about 260 million ballot papers, across the country, printed for the February 8, 2024 elections.

According to the ECP spokesman, the process of delivery of ballot papers was completed both by ground and by air. All ballot papers, he explained, were handed over to the district returning officers (DROs) concerned and their representatives from the government press institutions. He noted that despite all challenges, the commission completed the task on time so that all voters could participate in elections in the best and orderly way. He added that employees of the Election Commission fulfilled the important responsibility through their hard work and systematic planning in a limited time period.

Additional DG Central Control Room Haroon Shinwari briefed the media and said a control room had been set up to monitor the elections. He said special measures had been taken for monitoring through the state-of-the-art system, using WhatsApp for the first time to file complaints. Complaints could be lodged from all over the country on email and universal phone numbers, he added.

He said four control rooms had also been set up at the provincial level, while 32 regional monitoring control rooms would monitor the elections, and 144 district monitoring teams would also take steps to redress any grievances.

“Notices have been issued to 625 people since December 26. Show-cause notices were issued to 252 candidates, 156 people were fined for violating the code of conduct, 12,236 wall-chalking and hoardings were removed,” he added.

A candidate, he noted, might also be disqualified over serious violation of the code of conduct, and so far 221 complaints had been received, out of which 198 complaints resolved: Notices were issued to IGPs and chief secretaries over incidents in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, he added.

Separately, the visiting Commonwealth Observer Group, led by its chairman and former president of Nigeria Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, called on Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja at the Election Commission Secretariat.

The meeting was attended by ECP secretary, members and other senior officials. During the meeting, the CEC welcomed the Commonwealth Observer Group members in Pakistan and appreciated the 15-member Observer Group and nine-member support team, sent by the Commonwealth Secretariat to Pakistan to witness the February-8 general election.

He said that Pakistan had adopted an open door policy for foreign observers in the general election and a total of more than 100 global observers are present in Pakistan to witness the elections and accreditation cards have been issued to them.

The CEC briefed the Commonwealth members in detail about the conduct of elections in Pakistan and the preparations of the Election Commission in this regard. Dr Goodluck appreciated the preparations of the Election Commission for peaceful and successful conduct of elections and thanked the Commission for providing all facilities to the Commonwealth Observer Group for coming to Pakistan to witness the elections.