Islamabad (May 18, 2013): IRADA (Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development) is concerned over maligning campaigns against civil society organizations, particularly the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) on their stance about anomalies in the results of election 2013, and demands the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to disclose all Form XIV, received from the presiding officers after elections on May 11, 2013 on its website and clarify the situation.
IRADA is of the view that a vibrant civil society, as a watchdog, is indispensible to ensure transparency in the official functioning, particularly during the electoral process. Therefore, many civil society groups and organizations including FAFEN have undertaken the task of election observation this year and done tremendous work in this regard. However, while doing such enormous task, there was always possibility of making mistakes, which were regretted by FAFEN immediately. Nevertheless, it has been observed that the FAFEN and other civil society groups are being victimized due to being vocal about irregularities in electoral process. Instead of being appreciated over their remarkable contribution, the entire civil society is being maligned due to a few human errors during this gigantic task of observation.
It is worth explaining here that FORM XIV (RESULT OF THE COUNT) is one of very important documents relating to counting of votes at polling station. This form is supposed to be prepared and signed by the presiding officer upon completion of counting of votes at the polling station. The Form XIV, which is a statutory document, contains result count of a polling station. According to Section 45 of the Representation of People’s Act, 1976, FORM XIV is a public document and every citizen of the country has a right to access/read through all the public documents in the custody of any public body including Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). This right to information is reinforced by Article 19A of the Constitution of Pakistan through 18th Amendment.
We, therefore, demand that the ECP should put all 70,000 FORM XIV, received from the polling stations after the elections on May 11, 2013, on its website. This act will help end confusion created by the returning officers in Lahore and Rahim Yar Khan by having FIRs registered against FAFEN and also build credibility of the ECP. If the ECP is confident that the returning officers and presiding officers have not committed any wrong and FAFEN has disseminated wrong information then it should not delay in putting these 70,000 FORM XIV on its website. Any delay in disclosure of this data will create doubts about fairness and transparency in the electoral process as well as seriously affect the reputation of civil society groups, which have been striving for defending their integrity due to their engagement and commitment for free, fair and transparent elections in the country.