June 13; Having achieved 90% of implementation of its Strategic Plan, the ECP is ready to hold free and fair general election in 2023, announced the ECP at the PILDAT Forum. Representing the Federal Government, Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar said that the Federal Government is bound by the Constitution and law to conclude its term and that of the National Assembly in August.
The PILDAT Forum was held to discuss Pakistan’s preparedness for holding a Free and Fair General Election in 2023.
Speakers at the Forum included Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar, Federal Minister for Law and Justice, Mr. Zafar Iqbal, Special Secretary of the ECP Mr. Fawad Hasan Fawad, Former Special Secretary to the Prime Minister. Political parties were represented by Senator Syed Ali Zafar of the PTI, Mr. Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha, MNA-PML-N, Senator Taj Haider, PPPP, Senator Kamran Murtaza, MMAP and Mr. Muhammad Abubakar, MNA MQMP.
Special Secretary ECP, Mr. Zafar Iqbal, provided a comprehensive update on the progress made against the ECP’s third strategic plan (2019-2023). He confidently announced that the ECP was fully prepared to hold a free and fair general election, signaling its readiness to fulfill its vital role in the democratic process. Mr. Iqbal’s statement underscores the ECP’s commitment to ensuring a credible electoral process and the tireless work it has undertaken towards this end. The ECP’s strategic plan has been a roadmap for shaping its operations, and today’s update offers a promising sign that the upcoming elections will be handled with utmost professionalism and integrity. Special Secretary ECP, Mr. Zafar Iqbal, spoke about the ECP’s efforts to create a conducive environment for the forthcoming general election and stressed the need for societal belief in the democratic process.
Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar, the Federal Minister for Law and Justice, offered the government’s perspective on the upcoming general election, outlining key elements of the Elections Act 2017. Senator Tarar emphasized the role of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in setting the election date, underscoring its legal authority. Acknowledging the financial constraints the ECP faced in the past year, Senator Tarar stated, “Our ECP is a strengthened institution,” adding that these constraints are no longer the case. He assured the attendees that the government is committed to closing its tenure along with the National Assembly within the constitutional framework, as bound by law. Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar lauded the ECP’s proactive approach to ensuring free and fair elections.
Mr. Fawad Hasan Fawad, former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, highlighted that the ECP requires support and cooperation of the entire democratic society, citizens and parties to discharge its constitutional responsibility of holding free, fair and credible elections. He said that census data is an important component of the election process since it serves as the foundation for constituency delimitation and representation. The difficulties encountered by smaller provinces in accepting census findings point to the necessity for increased openness and engagement throughout the census process. To guarantee that the data obtained is accurate and approved by all stakeholders, the ECP should work closely with the census office. The results of the census are also critical in order to avoid interrupting the election calendar. Mr. Hasan also said that the election plan is essential for ensuring that all elements of the election process are properly specified and followed, from voter registration through vote counting. The ECP should work hard to ensure that this strategy is as precise, clear, and efficient as possible. The ECP has developed and achieved significant progress throughout the years. Unrealistic expectations from any organization, including the ECP, may be harmful. To manage expectations and develop confidence, it is critical to convey what the ECP can and cannot do, as well as how the electoral process works.
Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President of PILDAT, gave an overview of the Status of the Implementation of ECP’s 3rd Strategic Plan (2019-2023). He emphasized the consistent effort by the ECP to strategize and improve their processes over the past 15 years. He also highlighted the government’s role in facilitating the ECP’s work and how it impacts the electoral process. The ECP has exhibited a noteworthy dedication to strategic planning during the last 15 years. The ECP’s commitment to refining its procedures and adjusting to changing conditions is shown by the development of a strategic plan every five years. The ECP’s constant strategic planning reflects a culture of ongoing progress. Regular evaluations, revisions, and new strategic plans maintain the ECP’s work current and remain responsive to the electoral environment’s changing demands. Successful strategic plan execution requires collaboration with a diverse variety of stakeholders, including political parties, civil society, the media, and voters themselves.
Leading figures from the development sector, civil society, media, academia, and youth also joined the Forum creating an important space for dialogue, fostering mutual understanding and collaboration. The forum opened up thoughtful discussions on various aspects of the upcoming elections. Topics ranged from the ongoing census and its potential influence on the elections, the ECP’s plan for managing the logistical side of the election process, and how the ECP has evolved over time to meet the expectations of Pakistani society.
Senator Syed Ali Zafar of the PTI in his comments emphasized that the General Election must be held latest by October 2023 and that the ECP has a critical role in safeguarding the democratic process. “It would be very surprising and shocking if a commission said we don’t want to hold elections,” he added, emphasizing the ECP’s constitutional obligation to hold elections. He referred to the recent case involving the dissolution of the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies. In this regard, he raised reservations about the ECP’s position, implying that he expected them to be more decisive in accordance with their constitutional obligations. Such exchanges and honest talks are critical for the ongoing development of Pakistan’s election system.
Moderated by Ms. Aasiya Riaz, Joint Director PILDAT, overall, the forum highlighted the collective commitment to uphold democracy in Pakistan, with the ECP’s critical role in ensuring free and fair elections being recognized and appreciated. It reaffirmed the importance of open dialogue, stakeholder engagement, and continual improvement in the pursuit of democratic values.
Participants who joined the forum were:
Mr. Ghulam Murtaza, Director, Peace and Education Foundation (PEF), Ms. Irsa Shafiq, Program Officer, PEF, Mr. Wahaj Bukhari, Program Associate Implementation, PEF, Mr. Adnan Chauhan, Project Manager, Bedari, Mr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, Executive Director, Centre for Peace and Development Initiative (CPDI). Mr. Saadat Ali, Sr Policy Officer, Embassy of Kingdom of the Netherlands, Islamabad, Ms. Amna Syed, Gender Officer, UNDP-Pakistan, Ms. Marry Cummins, Chief Technical Advisor, UNDP-Pakistan, Mr. Nazeer Mahar, Executive Director, The Research Initiative, Mr. Shabbir Ahmed, Country Director, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)-Pakistan, Mr. Saquib Riaz, Senior Public Diplomacy and Political Affairs Officer, Embassy of Kingdom of the Netherlands, Islamabad, Mr. Arshad Gill, Senior Development Officer, Canadian High Commission. Dr Adam Saud, HOD, Faculty of Social Sciences, Bahria University, Dr Umar Hayat, Associate Professor, Dept of Public Policy, BU, Dr Muhamamd Waqas, Dept of Anthropology, Quaid e Azam University (QAU), Dr Yasir Hussain, Quaid e Azam University (QAU), Ms. Umaira Munir, Student, Dept of Public Policy, BU, Mr. Ali Akbar, Dept of Public Policy, BU, Ms. Saba Riasat, Student, Dept of Public Policy, BU, Mr. Noman Sadiq, Student, Dept of Public Policy, BU, Ms. Momina Khaliq, Student, Dept of Public Policy, BU, Mr. Muhammad Taseer, Student, Dept of Public Policy, Dr Uziar Hashmi, HOD, Government and Public Policy, National University of Science and Technology (NUST). Mr. Saleem Safi, Senior Anchor/Analyst, Mr. Owais Manglwala, Breakfast Show Host, 92 News, Mr. Waseem Nawaz, Reporter, APP, Mr. Ali Ejaz, Associate Producer, Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), Mr. Alamdar Baloch, reporter, Such TV, Mr. Almas Naqvi, Political Correspondent, Daily Dunya, Mr. Tahir Khalil, Bureau Chief-Islamabad, JANG, Mr. Rizwan Shahzad, Political Correspondent, Express Tribune, Mr. Asif Bashir Chaudhry, Sr Correspondent, Geo News, Mr. Aamir Wasim, Bureau Chief-Islamabad, DAWN, Mr. Tariq Aziz, Chief Reporter, Dunya News, Mr. Zafar Hashmi, Chief Reporter, Daily Dunya, Mr. Arif Mahmood, Group Editor, PEAK POINT, Mr. Raza Abid, Chief Reporter, RoZ TV, Ms. Amna Ali, Reporter, Express News, Ms. Ayesha Ali, Producer, TCM, Ms. Maram Obaid, TCM, Ms. Hareem Jadoon, Reporter, Dunya TV, Mr. Jawdat Bilal, GR + Public Policy, CAREEM and UBER