ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has informed the Supreme Court that the staggering of election is not feasible as it involves significant expenditure compared to holding it in one day as this expenditure relates to the movement of the security apparatus which is already depleted and its movement requires weeks in advance.
ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan Tuesday submitted a report regarding the provision of police and the army.
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, in its April 4 order had directed the Punjab caretaker government and the federal government to provide all such aid and assistance to the Commission as required by it for holding and conduct of general elections to the provincial assemblies of Punjab and KPK.
The staggering of election can also risk an increase in violence if done in phases, the losing party in one constituency would be prone to creating violence in the forthcoming constituency in the next phase to further offset chances of perceived loss. The incidents of influencing results through rigging in the next phase may also increase.
It said that the staggering also increases the risk of violence as miscreants have more chances to commit and plan attacks, rather than a one-day limited window of opportunity.
The general elections of 1970, which were staggered to the extent of the National Assembly election falling on 5th October 1970 and the Provincial Assembly date subsequently, which resulted in windfall wins for major political parties due to prior result announcement of the National Assembly.
The General Election of 1977 was staggered with an interval of three days between the National and the Provincial Assemblies. After the announcement of the result of the National Assembly constituencies, the opposition parties attributed alleged rigging in the National Assembly polls and boycotted the polls for the Provincial Assemblies election.
The staggered elections are conducted in different countries and counting is arranged at central places i.e. provincial districts headquarters and results are announced on the same day in the entire country/ region. However, the Elections Act, 2017 provides immediate counting of ballot papers and immediate announcement of results at the polling stations. Besides the legal requirement, the concept of staggered elections cannot be implemented in our country because the prior result of the first phase may influence the result of the subsequent phase.
The strength of police personnel in the province of Punjab presently available is 81,050 and the total requirement of police personnel for the conduct of election is 466,508.
The ECP maintained that in case the apex court directs to hold staggered elections, the conduct of election would be possible in six phases as the re-alignment of forces from one location to another location for the next phase of election will take approximately one month with additional burden on the public exchequer. This staggered election will go beyond even October 8th 2023, the date fixed by the Commission as poll date because of the six phases.
The police and other law enforcing agencies (LEAs) are engaged in intelligence-based operations (IBOs) in Punjab. Their appointment in election duty will lead to compromising the electoral activities by the terrorists, which will re-engage in terrorism, possibly electoral violence.
It stated that as the armed forces are not being provided in support of elections duty, the static shortage of police of 385,485 will not be met without this backup support by the armed forces.
The concept of a level playing field in terms of security is entirely dependent on this factor pre-dominantly as the turnout of the voters will decrease, as they feel intimidated by threats of violence. Voters confidence being directly a measure of proper security provided on poll day.
The report informed that the Commission had proposed the date of 8th October 2023, as poll date mainly on account of the IBOs being conducted in the Kachha areas bordering Sindh and Punjab, Mianwali, Bhakkar and DG Khan. These IBOs have been supported by the Pakistan Army, the Punjab Rangers, and Sindh Rangers.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023