=> ISLAMABAD, Feb 12: The European Union’s observers’
ISLAMABAD, Feb 12: The European Union’s observers’ mission will be the only credible team of monitors in Pakistan for the February 18 elections, it is learnt.
Informed sources told Dawn on Tuesday that other reputed organisations like the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Carter Centre of the United States were keeping away because they did not agree with the environment in which the polls were being held and thought that rigging had already taken place.
NDI, a wing of the Democratic Party, was actively preparing to send a team for the polls but decided against it after a visit by its pre-election assessment mission last October.
During the visit, Senator Tom Dachale and the mission had urged the government, the Electoral Commission and the political parties to “take immediate steps toward providing a safer electoral environment” as “escalating violence and intimidation in Pakistan is creating an atmosphere of fear and threatens to curtail the ability of parties and candidates to freely engage in political activity”.The International Republican Institute (IRI) of the ruling Republican Party had planned to send a 60-member mission to be joined by 40 US embassy personnel. But it decided to pull out, first citing security reasons and then problems of visa restrictions.
Diplomatic sources said that one of the major reasons behind some credible organisations declining to send observers’ teams was that these were wary of the US State department’s pressure to sanctify the elections come what may.
A Commonwealth team, another regular at elections, will also not be there since Pakistan closed its doors on the entity because of the suspension of its membership.
About 200 observers being allowed into the country include an OIC mission. But the OIC is not a signatory to the UN Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and Code of Conduct for International Election Observers.
Many of the conditions of election monitoring in this code do not apply in Pakistan’s case. For example, the Election Commission of Pakistan is not allowing observers to make spot checks at polling stations or conduct exit polls. This would make the observers worry about the credibility of their findings.
Besides, the poll observers face the problem of polling stations being scattered all over the country with attendant security concerns.
There are more than 65,000 polling stations. Election monitors work in teams of at least two. If there are 200 monitors there will be a maximum of 100 teams. That works out 1.4 monitoring teams per million voters, which is considered much lower than the international average.
“Genuine democratic elections cannot be achieved unless a wide range of other human rights and fundamental freedoms can be exercised on an ongoing basis without discrimination based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, including among others disabilities, and without arbitrary and unreasonable restrictions,” the UN declaration of principles states.
Furthermore, the declaration says: “International election observation evaluates pre-election, election-day and post-election periods through comprehensive long-term observation, employing a variety of techniques. As part of these efforts, specialised observation missions may examine limited pre-election or post-election issues and specific processes (such as, delimitation of election districts, voter registration, use of electronic technologies and functioning of electoral complaint mechanisms).”