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July 25, 2018
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Polling process: PML-N, PTI, PPP question ban on mobile phones

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July 25, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Not allowing mobile phones even to the polling agents, who have to perform a legal duty to file a complaint in case of any irregularity without leaving the premises of polling proceedings, can, as seen by political parties, undermine the transparency of today’s general election.

The mobile phones are the only source of recording any irregularity by the polling staff. But this time around, strict orders have been passed that, besides voters, even polling agents will not be allowed to enter the polling station if they carry their cell-phones.

The ECP officials, however, insist that the use of mobile phone in the polling station by the polling agents can create security problems.

The polling agent is the only representative of a party in a polling station. There can’t be two persons of the same party inside a polling station. In case of any irregularity by the officials deputed on the election duty, a polling agent is supposed to immediately inform the returning officer (RO) and file a complaint. In addition to this, the polling agent has to inform his party leaders about the complaint or any other untoward situation in the polling station. The ban on the use of mobile phones by the polling agents has deprived them of their legal right to file a complaint to the RO.

The polling staff will be using the mobile phones, whereas the security official, deputed there, will also be in touch through their phones and communication devices. Carrying mobile phones by voters are barred on the basis of only one argument that voters can take pictures of the stamped ballot papers, which is against the sanctity of the ballot paper.

The citizens should be trusted and taught about this constitutional provision of secrecy of vote and could be educated to not take any picture.

Top PTI leader, Ijaz Chaudhry, while talking to The News, said there must be some communication channel for the polling agent to contact the outside world to report any irregularity or file a complaint.

He asked how the polling process will continue if the polling agents are cut off from the outside world. He further questioned what will happen if a polling agent has to register a complaint or contact his candidate for guidance on any issue or development taking place in the polling station.

Ijaz Chaudhry said the law must be respected, but, in his view, if the polling agents are not allowed to use mobile phones, the polling process must be stopped if a polling agent wants to go outside the polling station to register a complaint.

Former Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa minister and senior PTI leader Mushtaq Ghani told The News that there must not be a ban on use of mobile phones by the polling agents. “If even polling agents are barred from using mobile phones, how will they inform us about any irregularity taking place in a polling station?” Mushtaq Ghani questioned and added: “I will try my best to speak to the Election Commission and will request them to allow polling agents to use the mobile phones.”

The PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif wrote to the ECP that the ban will create serious problems, and transparency of the polling process will be strengthened a lot if polling agents are allowed to take mobile phones with them in the polling stations. In his letter to the ECP, Shahbaz said if the officials deputed on the election duty are allowed to take mobile phones inside the polling stations, there is no reason whatsoever to stop polling agents from using the same facility.

Senior PPP leader Saeed Ghani told The News that he is unable to understand the reason behind ECP’s ban. If the polling agents do not have mobile phones, the election process cannot be termed transparent, he added.

Saeed Ghani disclosed that he had also taken up the issue with the ECP and are unaware of the logic behind placing the strange ban. He said if there is no communication channel for the polling agent, how would they contact the ECP officials, the RO or their candidates in case of any problem or irregularity at the polling station.

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