Naveed Ahmad Khan
ISLAMABAD: More than 128 million voters are set to elect their representatives for the national and provincial assemblies on Thursday (today) for the next five years in what appears to be one of the most unpredictable general elections in Pakistan’s political history.
The traditional contest will once again be among the three major parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). However, the Imran Khan-led party will be contesting without its iconic symbol bat after Supreme Court declared its intra-party elections “unconstitutional”.
The decision means PTI candidates will contest the elections ‘independently’.
Some of these religious groups have fielded more candidates than the number of contestants of other parties. A number of candidates are contesting from the platforms of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and Jamat-e-Islami (JI). The TLP has fielded even more candidates than other political parties in the race for provincial assemblies.
Extensive arrangements have been put in place by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in coordination with various supporting departments, including law enforcement agencies (LEAs).
Approximately 18,000 candidates across the country are in the electoral arena to woo the registered voters (128,587,760) for about 855 general seats of National and Provincial Assemblies.
The ECP has announced a public holiday on February 8, in order to provide the voters an opportunity to exercise of right of franchise smoothly and conveniently.
The Commission has already issued a Code of Conduct for the voters as well for media-persons for Election Day. The polling agents have been advised to display authorization cards.
The ECP said that there would be a complete ban on any campaign within the radius of 400 meters of a polling station and added that no candidate, polling agent or their supporters would interfere or hinder the official functioning.
The ECP has categorised over 17,500 as highly sensitive, 32,508 as sensitive and 42,500 as normal, out of a total of 92,500 polling stations nationwide.
The ECP has completed the training of approximately 1.49 million election staff to ensure the smooth execution of the electoral process.
The Commission has established an Election City in its premises, equipped with the latest technology to swiftly disseminate election results of 855 constituencies to the media.
A comprehensive strategy has been worked out to receive election results via WhatsApp, email, and fax. The ECP has also set up an alternative website to ensure uninterrupted dissemination of results in case of any disruptions.
The Election Management System (EMS) will operate even if internet connectivity were not available. Satellite communication arrangements have also been made in some areas facing connectivity issues.
Under the EMS, the photo of the Form 45 prepared by the Presiding Officer containing the result of the respective polling station will be swiftly transmitted to the respective Returning Officer for compiling of the results of the constituency on Form-47, which will be forwarded to the ECP and also shared with the media.
In case of connectivity issues, the results will be compiled through off-line modules.