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August 7, 2018

ECP criticised for ‘imposing media curbs, failing to conduct fair elections’

Karachi

August 7, 2018

Representatives of political parties, legal fraternity and journalists on Monday bitterly criticised the Election Commission of Pakistan for what they termed its failure to conduct transparent and fair general elections, provide a level playing field to political parties and their candidates, and imposing restrictions on media coverage.

Addressing a seminar titled “What Journalists Saw in General Elections 2018” at the Karachi Press Club on Monday, speakers called for reforms in election laws by removing all defects in the election procedures and for steps to be taken to ensure that the media is not restricted from covering the polls in future.

The seminar was organised by the Karachi Union of Journalists-Dustoor group. Stating that the ECP failed to conduct fair elections, Pakistan Peoples Party Karachi President Saeed Ghani said that political parties were not provided a level playing field before and on the polling day. He said polling agents were not provided Form-45 after the counting process in sheer violation of the election laws.

Pak Sarzameen Party leader and Deputy Mayor Arshad Vohra said that the elections in Karachi were used to fulfil the number game in the Centre. He claimed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was given 14 seats on merely 25 per cent votes polled in the city.

He added that Form-45 had still not been issued to the candidates, which raises doubts on the ECP’s performance. Haider Imam Rizvi, the president of the Karachi Bar Association, said all political parties, including PTI, have expressed reservations and grievances regarding the pre-polls, polling and after polling process.

He said electoral laws were not complied with in letter and spirit during the elections, and people had now experienced a “new trick” used in every general election which casts doubt on the electioneering process.

Rizvi said the judiciary did not play its due role to ensure fair polls, while the apex bodies of lawyers also preferred to remain silent on the rigging allegations levelled by political parties. He expressed fear that such irregularities will weaken the country and called for maintaining the supremacy of the Constitution while demanding that election rigging should come to an end.

Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal leader and candidate for NA-244 Zahid Saeed said that polling agents were not provided results of counting in the polling stations which is mandatory under the election laws, while the ECP also failed to make arrangements to facilitate voters and the media during the polling.

Senior journalist Mubashir Zaidi said it was unfortunate that every election in the country has the stigma of rigging and the winning party has been decided prior to the elections. Tariq Abul Hasan, president of KUJ-Dastoor, condemned the restrictions on the media during the polling process and inappropriate behaviour of polling staff with reporters, while Karachi Press Club President Ahmed Khan Malik and Secretary Maqsood Yousufi also spoke on the occasion.

Several journalists, including Masood Anwar, Imtiaz Khan Faran, AK Mohsin, Waqar Bhatti, Shoaib Jatt and Sidra Dar, who covered the elections on the polling day from their respective media organisations, shared their experiences about the restrictions they faced.

They said they were not allowed to cover polling stations despite having accreditation passes issued by the ECP, while the ECP also did not allow journalists to cover the counting process after the polls.

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