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> Report of CGEP Pre-Election Fact-Finding Missions to Gujrat and Sialkot Released
   CGEP demands effective Army deployment for election; finds sense of insecurity in Gujrat
 
CGEP Statement
February 11, 2008
Islamabad


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  • CGEP finds Widespread feeling of insecurity among voters in Gujrat
  • Nazims in Gujrat and Sialkot active in Election Campaign
  • All Candidates violating Election Code of Conduct regarding Billboards and Banners
  • liNo Evidence found for Charges of rigging through Postal Ballots
  • Officials should voluntarily suspend official protocol during their candidacy Effective Army Deployment near and on the Polling Day Demanded
  • Polling Staff emoluments should be doubled

 
 

A Fact-Finding Mission of the Citizens Group on Electoral Process (CGEP) headed by Justice (Retired) Saeed uz Zaman Siddiqui has demanded visible and effective army deployment in sensitive constituencies of the country including Gujrat where political tension runs high among traditional political opponents intensified by recent assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. The Group declared that it has not found any proof of misuse of postal ballots in the forthcoming general election in four national assembly constituencies in Gujrat district and five national assembly constituencies in Sialkot district. The mission to Gujrat comprised former Punjab Governor Shahid Hamid, Senior lawyer and Environmentalist Dr. Parvez Hassan, Gallup Chairman Ijaz Shafi Gilani, PILDAT Executive Director Ahmed Bilal Mehboob and Joint Director Aasiya Riaz. The Sialkot Mission comprised former Sindh Governor Lt. Gen. Moinuddin Haider, former supreme Court Judge Justice (Retired) Khalil ur Rehman Khan and PILDAT officials Ahmed Bilal Mehboob and Aasiya Riaz. Both the missions were headed by Justice (Retired) Saeed uz Zaman Siddiqui, former Chief Justice of Pakistan. The CGEP mission visited Gujrat on February 7 and Sialkot on February 8 and held detailed meetings with the District administration, Retuning Officers, Candidates of all parties and local media to verify the charges levelled by various candidates about the alleged misuse of local government resources in support of the PML-Q candidates, alleged misuse of official facilities and protocol by Chaudhry Amir Hussain, Speaker of the National Assembly and a National Assembly candidate from constituency NA-111 of Sialkot. The mission found that contrary to the charges that a huge number of postal ballots were being readied for casting in favour of PML-Q candidates, only 836 postal ballots were issued for the four National Assembly constituencies (NA-104, 105, 106 and 107) of Gujrat District with an average of a little over 200 postal ballots per constituency – well below the national average of 2002 election. Likewise only 118 postal ballots were issued for the five National Assembly constituencies of Sialkot (NA-110, 111, 112, 113 and 114) according to the figures provided by the two District Reurning Officers to the mission.

 
 

The Group, after detailed discussions with the candidates of various parties, District Returning Officer, DCO, District Nazim and local media in Gujrat, felt that the voters feel threatened by the increasing possibility of violence near and on the day of polling. A general atmosphere of fear was detected among the candidates and workers of parties opposed to Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and his group. Most of the persons who met the mission felt that there was a major threat of violence in Gujrat which can only be prevented by effective deployment of army. The Group found ample evidence of the District Nazims’ active involvement in the on-going election campaign both at Gujrat and Sialkot. Gujrat Nazim openly confessed that he does not attend his office these days due to his election-related pre-occupation.

 
 

While in Sialkot, the Group, after detailed meetings with Chaudhry Amin Hussain Speaker of the National Assembly and a PML-Q candidate from NA-111 and his rival Dr. Firdaus Ashiq Awan of PPP, felt that though the law provides for official facilities and protocol to the speaker, the spirit of the law and the fairplay demands that such protocol should be voluntarily discontinued during the period of candidacy. The CGEP, however, made a distinction between the protocol and security arrangements and felt that security of all candidates should be ensured by the government in view of the level of threat to each candidate.

 
 

The Group also noticed that scheme of polling stations and the list of polling staff was also a bone of contention between the candidates as the non-PML-Q candidates alleged that ghost polling stations have been created, locations of the polling stations have been changed to their disadvantage and polling staff list contains a large number of unqualified and biased persons. The Group discussed these allegations with the District Returning Officers and they assured the Group to seriously look into the objections and rectify them.

 
 

The Group saw a number of large hoardings and posters of almost all candidates which was in obvious violation of the Election Code of Conduct but neither the DROs nor the Election Commission appeared to be bothered about them. It appeared that the violation has been accepted by all concerned

 
 

The Fact Finding Mission also found that FIRs were lodged by the district police in Gujrat against un-named persons for allegedly damaging public and private property during protest rallies following the assassination of Mohtarima Benazir Bhutto. Although the DPO informed the mission that no arrest would be made before the election as a result of these FIRs, the PPP candidates and their supporters apprehend that the FIRs were registered to blackmail them and to arrest them at the peak of electioneering.

 
 

The Group also noted that the procedure of declaring a polling station sensitive was unilaterally undertaken by the Police Departments without any meaningful consultative process involving candidates and the Returning Officers and District Returning Officers.

 
 

The Group has called for at least doubling the meagre emoluments of the polling staff besides providing them the transportation. The Group also recommended that the ROs and DROs should also be compensated for their extra work during election.

The Group has called upon the District Coordination Officers, the District Police Officers and other officials of the district administration in the two districts to maintain strict non-partisanship and asked the District Returning Officers and other returning officers to be extra-vigilant for any violations of electoral laws in view of the sensitive nature of the two districts where a former Prime Minister is contesting election both in Gujrat and Sialkot districts and a speaker of the National Assembly is contesting election in Sialkot district. The Group admired the cooperation extended by all district officials and candidates to the mission in its fact-finding efforts.