Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Secretary Babar Yaqoob on Wednesday lambasted political parties for “disrespecting the mandate of the Pakistani people without any reason, or for political reasons”, terming it a violation of the “basic principles of democracy”.
“Voters exercised their right to vote in a free and fair atmosphere… It is against the basic principles of democracy to disrespect the Pakistani people’s mandate without any reason, or for politically motivated reasons,” the ECP official said.
Yaqoob claimed that the ECP had “not received any complaints of rigging from anywhere in the country”, and that it expected the winning and losing candidates to respect voters’ choice by accepting the results of the July 25 election. He urged those with concerns about the poll results to take due legal and Constitutional process.
The EPC secretary claimed that international monitors like the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM), Free and Fair Election Network and Commonwealth observers, who had observed the polls at different stages, had declared them free and fair.
However, the EU EOM in a preliminary report on the polls issued last week noted that although the election process was “well conducted and transparent”, the legal framework within which the elections were held “restricts freedom of expression”.
“Our overall assessment of the election process is that it is not as good as in 2013,” EU monitoring team chief Michael Gahler had said at a press conference last week, adding that despite this, the results were “credible”.
Although both the ECP and EU EOM earlier claimed that the reason behind the delay in collation of election results ─ that led many to question the transparency of the election process ─ was a technical failure in the ECP’s Results Transmission System software, Yaqoob today said that the ECP had demanded an explanation over the delay in gathering of results from Returning Officers and District Returning Officers.
The ECP secretary also lauded the participation of women voters and political candidates in the election exercise, and said that the turnout of voters had been 52 per cent.
However, it is pertinent to mention that re-polling has been ordered in certain constituencies where the turnout of women voters was less than 10pc (as per the ECP’s Code of Conduct), such as NA-39 (DI Khan-II), NA-48 (Islamabad), NA-10 (Shangla), and NA-44 (Tribal area-V).
While talking to reporters today, Yaqoob expressed hope that all parties would “respect state institutions” and work towards strengthening the democratic process in the country.
He also rubbished claims by political parties that they were not given a level playing field in the run-up to the elections. Yaqoob said that the ECP had taken all steps to ensure that all parties had equal opportunities to campaign for elections and had also used its authority whenever needed.
“On PML-N’s request, we asked NAB (National Accountability Bureau) not to arrest the party’s candidates while the election campaign was underway [so that] they would have a level playing field. NAB agreed to do so and assured us of its cooperation.”
He claimed that the ECP had also taken “immediate notice” of incidents of political figures being stopped at different places and took steps to ensure that the incidents won’t be repeated.
He further said that the election watchdog had also taken steps to give the people easy access to election results and other information regarding polls by uploading it on its website and by running informative advertisements on the media.
Yaqoob thanked the judiciary for providing ROs and DROs for elections, as well as the armed forces for providing security.
Last week’s elections saw major political parties losing big in their traditional strongholds as Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf clinched a majority of seats.
The shocking defeats faced by long-serving politicians sparked allegations of massive rigging and big players like the PPP and PML-N announced that they had “rejected” the results.