Fafen report on NA-151 by-election
Islamabad: Gross violations of the new code of conduct introduced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) along with suspicious voting patterns, heavy presence of police, fraudulent voting and unauthorised persons inside polling stations were observed in the moderate turnout by-election for NA-151 (Multan-IV).
According to a report released by Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen), although the acting chief election commissioner, who is also an acting judge of the Supreme Court, was present in the constituency to monitor the implementation of the new Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Contesting Candidates, the ECP was unable to curtail obvious code violations such as establishment of political party camps outside polling stations, party materials in and around polling stations, voter chits inside polling stations and provision of transportation to voters by candidates. The ECP’s enforcement of the new code remained weak in both the pre-election phase and on election day.
The seat was vacated due to the retroactive disqualification of former prime minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on April 26, 2012. He achieved victory in the general elections of 2008 by securing 77,664 votes when the voter turnout was 38.85%. A total of 304,619 voters were registered for the by-election in PS-151 (Multan-IV) – 164,538 male and 140,081 female. That is 46,473 fewer voters than the number of registered voters in the 2008 general elections.
The ECP had set up 245 polling stations – 62 male, 59 female and 124 combined. The polling stations included 711 polling booths – 388 male and 323 female. Despite the refusal of the ECP to issue accreditation cards, 41 trained Fafen observers monitored the voting and counting processes inside polling stations with the permission of the respective presiding officers. The observers spent between 45 and 60 minutes in each polling station to document their observations and findings on a standardized checklist based on the provisions of the Representation of the Peoples Act 1976, Conduct of Elections Rules 1977, and instructional handbooks that the ECP has provided to election officials.
The observers recorded suspicious voting patterns at 19 polling booths of 12 polling stations, eight of which were combined, three were male-exclusive and one was female-exclusive. In 25 randomly sampled polling stations, voter turnout in the by-election was 35.11 per cent, slightly lower than the turnout in the 2008 general elections. The turnout at male polling stations was recorded at 35.5 per cent, 33.3 percent at female polling stations and 36.1 per cent at combined polling stations.
Additional counterfoils were filled on the ballot books at 37 polling stations whereas ballot papers were issued without filling the counterfoils at 11 polling stations, indicating strong possibility that fraudulent votes were stuffed in ballot boxes.
Dubious thumb impressions were marked on the counterfoils of ballot books at the same angle with phasing out ink print at 19 polling stations. In the case of genuine voters, thumb impressions are marked in fresh, dark ink and are usually at varying angles.
Election officials were seen stamping ballot papers at two polling stations: PS-50 and PS-85. Polling agents and other unauthorized persons were also seen doing the same at three polling stations.
The observers indicated the presence of local influential persons inside 10 polling stations. Instances were reported where some of these unauthorized persons were attempting to persuade voters to favour a certain political party or candidate at five polling stations. Similarly, they were seen trying to influence the police at one polling station. A scuffle between supporters of PPP and the independent candidate Shoukat Hayat Bosan broke out at PS-85, disrupting voting processes from 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.