ISLAMABAD (PPA) — The Commonwealth Observer Group which came to Pakistan to observe the process of elections in Pakistan concluded in an interim statement that commended the people of Pakistan for their commitment to exercising their right to vote and termed the move as “an important milestone in strengthening democracy in Pakistan.”
While appreciating the task conducted by the Election Commission of Pakistan also urged ‘those who have grievances about the process to seek redress through the established channels of dispute resolution.’
The Group also expressed its sincere condolences to the families of the victims of the isolated terrorist attacks during the election period.
The Group commended the voters of Pakistan, the ECP, polling staff, political parties, candidates, their agents, the security forces and all others for their respective roles during this generally peaceful electoral process.
The Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group, former Head of State of Nigeria, Gen. Abdulsalami A. Abubakar had also called on all registered voters in Pakistan to “come out en masse” to cast their votes today in the general Elections2018.
The Commonwealth Observer Group also promised to release a full assessment of the entire process in its final report after few weeks.
The Group was constituted by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, which arrived in Pakistan on 18 July 2018.
The Group was fully facilitated by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the Minister of Foreign Affairs, political parties, civil society, media representatives, Commonwealth High Commissioners, citizen observers, as well as other international observers.
The Commonwealth Observer teams were deployed around the country particularly in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Karachi and Hyderabad. on 23 July 2018, to observe the election environment and preparations for the poll.
The Group also visited 107 polling stations in different constituencies and met voters, provincial electoral officials, political parties, the police, civil society and other stakeholders in their respective locations to gain a broader picture of the electoral process on the ground.
According to the report released on Friday evening in Islamabad by the Commonwealth Group candidates from political parties, including independent candidates, were largely able to campaign freely, peacefully and also able to organize public rallies as per Election Rules 2017.
According to the report, the overall security situation in the country was tense, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Balochistan Provinces, where terrorist attacks in the weeks preceding the election claimed more than 170 lives, including the lives of three candidates.
The Group also noted that the political parties and candidates were free to place paid supplements and political party advertisements in newspapers and private TV channels.
It also added that there was extensive use of e-campaigning through SMS, Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp while in small cities and rural areas, posters and banners, as well as portraits of candidates and their election symbols were posted on shop fronts, private vehicles, and houses.
The Observers report also took notice that ‘some stakeholders questioned the impartiality of the military and judiciary and cited the timing of court cases against certain political leaders and candidates as an example.’
The Observer Group also noted that there was extensive coverage of the election on television, print, radio and online media and that the state broadcaster followed the ECP Guidelines for equitable airtime for parties.
It also noticed that political parties with greater financial resources were able to place more adverts on private print and electronic media, thereby putting others at a disadvantage.
The Group said that it received reports that some private media houses were subjected to pressure in the run-up to the election while media and civil society representatives mentioned that editors and reporters received threats and were prevented from fully covering certain issues, such as the rights of minorities, performance of judiciary and the role of state institutions.