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> The Citizens Group Concludes Electoral Fact Finding Mission to Thatta and Badin; Government Resources and Strong Arm Tactics in Play to Queer the Electoral Pitch
   
 
CGEP Statement
February 15, 2008
Islamabad


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  • Sindh Caretaker Minister for Food and Agriculture Ijaz Shah Shirazi and Nazim Thatta active in Election Campaign of “All in the Family” at Thatta
  • Finds Serious Irregularities and large scale multi-entries of Voters in Computerised Electoral Rolls
  • FIRs used as a Means to Politically Victimise Opposing Candidates
  • Polling Scheme to the disadvantage of Voters
  • Manipulation of Candidates by Commandeering their Vehicles
  • Postings and Transfers During the Election Period
  • Effective Army Deployment near and on the Polling Day Demanded

 
 

In an Electoral Fact Finding Mission to Thatta and Badin in Sindh, the Citizens Group on Electoral Process, headed by Justice (Retd.) Saeed uz Zaman Siddiqui, has warned of Election Day violence if the Army is not deployed on the Polling Station level near and on the Polling Day. Generally, the voters express fear of intimidation and harassment, both for their lives and livelihoods if they dare to speak out or vote independently.

 
 

In an attempt to assess the pre-electoral environment in District Thatta and Badin, the CGEP undertook the Fact Finding Mission comprising Justice (Retd.) Saeed uz Zaman Siddiqui, Chairman CGEP and Former Chief Justice of Pakistan; Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Asad Durrani, Member CGEP and Former Former Director General Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence; Mr. Ghazi Salahuddin, Member CGEP and Columnist, The News; Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director and Ms. Aasiya Riaz, Joint Director of PILDAT.

 
 

Large pictures of Sindh Caretaker Minister for Food and Agriculture Ijaz Shah Shirazi and Nazim Thatta appear alongside the NA and PS candidates of the Shirazi family - three sons and two sons-in-law of the caretaker Minister and a son of District Nazim (nephew of caretaker minister) are contesting elections from the same district – across Thatta while Government buildings and property are also used to place banners and hoist the Shirazi flags across the city, the CGEP observed. The District Returning Officer and the Returning Officer, however, seemed to be unable to notice this apparent and blatant violation of the Electoral Laws and the ECP Code of Conduct, as they responded, when pointed out, that they have not had a chance to tour the city due to unavailability of adequate resources. However, they “pledged” to ensure free and fair contest in the District.

 
 

A serious cause of concern are the large scale irregularities and multi-entries in the Voters List. The multi-entries in Voters List, at the level of a Union Council run in thousands. The irregularities and multi-entries in the Computerised Electoral Rolls (that repeat both the key name, the CNIC numbers as well as Fathers Name), despite being officially communicated by candidates to the ECP during the time of display of draft electoral rolls. These multiple entries and irregularities have contributed to an unusual increase in the number of voters at certain polling stations. This increase would also make the voter turnout estimation incorrect as voters’ lists are used as the basis to determine voter turnout across the country. The CGEP noted with regret the inability of the ECP to provide the basis of a free and fair poll – an error-free voting list, despite CGEP’s efforts, early warnings and taking up of this issue many times with the ECP from January 2007 onwards. This would essentially affect the fairness of the upcoming Election which is already called into question in some fundamental ways, the CGEP observed.

 
 

In the aftermath of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, 257 FIRs have been registered against the PPP Candidates and workers in Badin while 268 FIRs have been registered in Thatta district. At both the districts, the PPP candidates complained that while candidates and their workers were also directly nominated, nearly 100,000 persons were un-nominated in each district in these “politically motivated” FIRs which were now being used to politically victimise them at the behest of the district government. Police harassment was also experienced by the opposition candidates as the Police snatched their vehicles to perform election duty, a fact that the district government official agreed to.

 
 

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 locations of the polling stations have been changed to their disadvantage and voters will need to travel to up to 60 to 70 kilometres to cast their votes.

 
 

In Thatta, the opposition candidates alleged that the Police was commandeering their vehicles at a large scale to cripple their campaign and to render them ineffective in days leading up to election and on election day. When the Citizens Group checked with the District Government, it was confirmed that 309 vehicles are required by the district government for the management of elections before and during the election day and indeed, as a general practice, only the opposition’s vehicles were being commandeered. The District Government sources complained that a meagre amount of money, Rs. 2000 per vehicle was paid by the ECP to the District to arrange for vehicles. The district government officials also informed that about 50-60 vehicles were also required for the Army and Rangers. It is unclear why the Army and Rangers require vehicle when they have their own resources alongside which their aid is sought at the district level, the CGEP questioned. In addition, the Group viewed this practice with alarm and termed it to be an unfair and unjustified manner in which to arrange for vehicles for election management. Left to the choice of police to commandeer whatever vehicles it needs off the road, not only it adversely affects the campaign of the candidates but also causes huge disruption in the lives of ordinary citizens due to lack of public transport on the roads. The Election Commission and the Government need to seriously look into this aspect of managing elections to the disadvantage of candidates and disruption of citizens’ lives. It is the job of the ECP and the Government to ensure facilitation and management of elections which should not be at the cost of private citizens discomfort and the crippling of campaign of candidates, the CGEP held.

 
 

The CGEP Mission noted with concern that the District Police Officer (DPO) Thatta has been posted to the district after December 27, 2007. When confirmed from district authorities at Thatta, the CGEP Mission was informed that the new DPO was appointed after the inability of the earlier DPO to maintain law and order. It is a question whether the posting has been cleared by the ECP beforehand, the CGEP noted. Similarly, a Returning Officer (RO) in District Badin, Mr. Shahid Chandio (NA-224, Badin cum Tando Muhammad Khan-I (Old Badin-I) has been replaced during the election period and has allegedly been sent on forced medical leave. When checked with the DRO Badin, he informed CGEP Mission that Mr. Chandio suffered from ulcers and applied for leave. He was unable to comment, however, if the leave was orchestrated on pressure.

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.