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> Election 2008: Citizens Group Releases Score Card on Pre-poll Fairness
   

CGEP Terms:
  • Pre-Poll Electoral Process “Highly Unfair”
  • Prospects for the fairness of remaining phases of the electoral process “very slim”
  • Increased Compulsions for Manipulation and Rigging of remaining phases of Election if the popularity of the former ruling parties takes a hit
  • Independence of Judiciary and Effectiveness / Credibility of the Election Commission - two most important parameters to judge the fairness of the pre-poll election process
  • Neutrality of the President received the lowest score (14 on a scale of 100): most damaging factor for the credibility of the electoral process
  • Overall Pre-poll fairness receives a score a 26 on a scale of 100
  • The Only Way Forward: Reconstitution of the Caretaker Governments and the ECP through consensus of Political Parties
 

January 09, 2008
Islamabad


Download Report on Pre-Poll Fairness [PDF]
   

The Citizens Group on Electoral Process – CGEP has termed the pre-electoral process leading up to General Election 2008 to be highly unfair. In a CGEP Pre-Election Assessment Report with a Score Card on Pre-Poll Fairness, the Group, which has been meeting since December 2006 under the auspices of PILDAT, has carried out a systematic and continuous review of the Pre-poll electoral process spanning over a period of around 13 months starting from December 2006 up to December 31, 2007.

 
 

“A careful assessment of the entire period of the Pre-poll election process leaves no doubt that the process had been highly unfair. The prospects for the fairness of remaining phases of the electoral process appear to be very slim. In fact, after such a thoroughly unfair pre-poll process, the need for any manipulation in the polling-day process and post-election process should be drastically reduced,” the CGEP pre-poll fairness assessment report concludes. However, the report warns that in case the popularity of the former ruling parties takes a hit in the remaining days, as apparently is the case due to the recent assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, one of the worst wheat crisis in the country and the worst electricity outages on a daily basis, the compulsions for manipulation and rigging of the remaining phases of election will increase and one may witness desperate acts to get the desired election results.

 
 

Assault on the Judiciary; the first in March 2007 and the second in November 2007, was perceived by the Citizens Group to be primarily to influence the electoral process and to create conditions for achieving the desired results. Curbs on the private media seemed to have been placed with the same intention. The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) was appointed in the sole discretion of the President without any consultation and consensus by the opposition parties. Two vacancies in the 4-member Election Commission were kept vacant while the Election Commission took the most important decisions relating to the Presidential Election and the coming General Election. Officials in the Election Commission Secretariat were given arbitrary extensions in service beyond their due date of retirement. Local Government Election in 2005 was heavily rigged and such Nazims were put in place who could support the PML-Q candidates at the time of the General Election. The selection of the members of the Caretaker Government further strongly reinforced the suspicions about the fairness of electoral process. Almost 80 % of the Cabinets are either members of the former ruling parties or are their known and committed supporters. The remaining persons are so ineffective that their presence in the caretaker government is hardly of any consequence. Civil servants were massively transferred and favourites of the former ruling parties were placed in key positions just before the induction of the caretaker governments and announcement of the Election Schedule.

 
 

The Citizens Group includes prominent, non-partisan and generally respected national figures coming from diverse backgrounds such as Judiciary, Media, Academia, Law, Armed Forces, Civil Bureaucracy, Business and Citizens organisations and belonging to all regions of the country (Names of CGEP Members are given at the end). Closely monitoring the pre-poll process since December 2006, the Group identified 9 parameters to assess the fairness of the pre-poll phase including Neutrality of Caretaker Governments in the Centre and Provinces; Neutrality of the Local Governments; Neutrality of the President and Governors; Neutrality of the State-owned Media; Freedom of Private Media from Government; Independence of the Judiciary; Effectiveness and Credibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan; Correctness, Completeness and Credibility of Electoral Rolls and Maintenance of Law and Order. The Group members evaluated the performance against each parameter and scored its performance. The individual scores were then aggregated to produce the collective Group score against each parameter.

 
 

The Citizens Group considered Independence of Judiciary and the Effectiveness / Credibility of the Election Commission as the two most important parameters to judge the fairness of the pre-poll election process. The next crucial ingredient, in the eyes of the CGEP, has been the Neutrality of the President and Governors followed by the Neutrality of the Caretaker Governments, Neutrality of Local Government, Freedom of Private Media, Maintenance of Law and Order, Credibility of Electoral Rolls and the, Neutrality of the State-owned Media, in the order of importance assigned by the Citizens Group in terms of the importance of these parameters in the pre-poll process.

 
 

Judging the overall fairness of the pre-poll environment spanning over 12 months, the Citizens Group gave it a poor assessment, a score of 26 on a scale of 100. This indicates that the pre-poll election phase has been unfair to a large degree and the prospects of the entire electoral exercise to carry some credibility are extremely low. Neutrality of the President and Governors received the lowest score – 14 on a scale of 100 - indicating that this is the most damaging factor for the credibility of the electoral process. Neutrality of the Local Governments and the Effectiveness / credibility of the Election Commission are the two parameters which have received the next lowest scores, 15 and 17 respectively on a scale of 100. Other parameters receiving some of the lowest scores are Neutrality of the Caretaker Governments (21) and the Independence of the Judiciary (22). In the order of scores received by each parameter, the Freedom of Private Media has received the score of 49 on a scale of 100. The Group believes that the recent restrictions imposed on November 3, 2007 through PEMRA laws, are still in force despite the lifting of emergency and it appears that the Government is specially going out to economically cripple some media houses. Acknowledging the fact that the electoral rolls suffer from many defects, the Group gives the score of 38 on a scale of 100 to the Credibility of Electoral Rolls. This score may be the second highest in a relative sense but in no way is satisfactory. The score indicates that the Group feels that the Electoral Rolls are suspected of being incomplete, containing bogus votes and are not up-to-date.

 
 

The Pre-Poll Assessment Report argues that while there is near consensus in the world and in Pakistan on the need for a free and fair election in the country, there is no consensus on the definition of what constitutes a free and fair election. Another contentious contradiction is that unless an outrageous incident of rigging takes place on the polling-day, the results are more or less acceptable. The regime continues to insist that unless people come on the streets against the election results and there is widespread agitation, an otherwise flawed election will be acceptable. This is a very dangerous line of argument and not only amounts to an open invitation to miscreants and lawless elements in the society, but runs contradictory to the democratic principle and in violation of the people’s right to express through election.

 
 

Looking ahead, the Citizens Group believes that even at this stage, the only way for holding a free fair and credible election is the reconstitution of the Caretaker Governments and the ECP through consensus of Political Parties & Civil Society. The Group contends that the future of democracy in Pakistan is linked to a free and fair election. Not only the coming election is a great test for the country, the post-election challenges will also put the leadership to extreme tests. Only a leadership with a strong mandate by the people of Pakistan can have the strength to deal with such apparently-insurmountable problems. The Constitution of Pakistan, though repeatedly mutilated by the successive military governments, still provides a strong basis to build a democratic order on in Pakistan. However, the Group warned that if the coming election turns out to be anything but completely free and fair, the challenges facing the country will compound and democracy, along with the future of the State, may face grave threats.

 
 

Citizens Group on Electoral Process (CGEP) List of Members

(As on December 31, 2007)

No. Name
1. Justice (Retd.) Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui, Former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Chairman
2. Arif Nizami, Mr.; Editor, The Nation
3. Asad Durrani, Lt. General (Retd.); Former Director General, ISI / MI
4. Aslam Kazi, Mr. ; CEO, Daily Kawish/KTN
5. Ghazi Salahuddin, Mr.; Daily ‘ The News’
6. Hameed Haroon, Mr.; CEO, Dawn Group of Newspapers
7. Hasan-Askari Rizvi, Dr.; Political & Defence Analyst
8. Ijaz Shafi Gilani, Dr; Chairman, Gallup Pakistan Ltd.
9. Javed Jabbar, Mr.; Former Senator & Minister
10. Kamran Khan, Mr.; Journalist & TV Show Host, Geo News
11. Moinuddin Haider, Lt. Gen. (Retd.); Former Governor Sindh
12. Mujib-ur-Rehman Shami, Mr.; Editor in Chief, Daily Pakistan
13. Muneer A. Malik, Mr.; President, Supreme Court Bar Association
14. Najam Sethi, Mr.; Editor Daily Times
15. Nasira Iqbal, Justice (Retd.); Former Judge, Lahore High Court
16. Omar Khan Afridi, Mr.; Former Chief Secretary NWFP
17. Parvez Hassan, Dr.; Partner Hassan & Hassan Advocates
18. Qazi Muhammad Jamil; Former President, Supreme Court Bar Association
19. Rahimullah Yusufzai, Mr.; Executive Editor, The News, Peshawer
20. Shafqat Mahmood, Mr.; Former Senator and Federal / Provincial Minister
21. Shahid Hamid, Mr.; Former Governor Punjab
22. Sikandar Hayat Jamali, Mr.; Former Chief Secretary, Balochistan
23. Syed Talat Hussain, Director News & Current Affairs, Aaj TV
24. Tasneem Noorani, Mr.; Former Federal Secretary
25. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Mr.; Executive Director, PILDAT
26. Aasiya Riaz, Ms.; Joint Director, PILDAT

For further information and clarification, please contact Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, PILDAT Executive Director at 0300 8474 566 or at executive.director@pildat.org