In Pakistan, the Election Commission is the constitutional entity, made up of one Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and four Election Commission Members, that has the authority and responsibility of conducting elections. The ECP is the organization responsible to assist the Election Commission in implementing its policies and decisions. The ECP has offices throughout the country at the federal, provincial, divisional and district levels. While the Election Commission is headed by the CEC, the executive side of the ECP is headed by the Secretary of the ECP.
The Election Commission of Pakistan is the five-person team within the ECP that has the legal and constitutional powers to conduct elections. They also have the authority to appoint persons to positions in the ECP and to run the organization.
A person may be appointed as Chief Election Commissioner if he or she is (or has been) a Judge of the Supreme Court or a Judge of a High Court and is qualified to be appointed as a Supreme Court Judge. To be a Member of the Election Commission, a person must be a former Judge of a High Court. There are four High Courts in Pakistan – one in each of the four provinces. After the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, the Members and the CEC are now selected through a consultative process between the government and opposition and approved by the President.
The Election Commission of Pakistan comprises of a 5 tiered bodies; Election Commission, ECP Secretariat which consists of several wings: Elections, Administration, Budget and Finance, Local Government Elections, Trainings and Research, and Information Technology and Public Relations, 4 Provincial Election Commission Offices in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta, 24 Divisional Election Commission Offices, and 118 District Election Commission Offices, and at the same level, 7 Agency Election Commission Offices in FATA.
The Commission is required to take steps to guard against corrupt practices in the electoral process. The Election Commission’s specific responsibilities include the following:
-Preparing electoral rolls for National Assembly, Provincial Assembly and local government elections and revising them annually;
-Delimitation of constituencies;
-Organizing and holding general elections to the National Assembly, Provincial Assemblies and the local government bodies.
-Organizing and conducting elections to the Senate and by-elections to fill vacancies in the National and Provincial Assemblies and the Senate;
-Appointing Election Tribunals; and
-Holding election to the office of the President.
-For the conduct of elections to the National and Provincial Assemblies, the Election Commission appoints a District Returning Officer for each District and a Returning Officer for each constituency, who are drawn from among the officers of the Judiciary, the Federal/Provincial Government and Local Authorities. Returning Officers are mostly Additional District & Sessions Judges.
-The list of polling stations is prepared by the Returning Officers and approved by the District Returning Officer. No polling station can be located in the premises of a candidate.
-The list of Presiding Officers, Assistant Presiding Officers and polling staff is prepared by the Returning Officer and sent to the District Returning Officer for approval at least 15 days before the polls. The Presiding Officer is responsible for conducting polls at the Polling Station and maintaining law and order. He is assisted by the Assistant Presiding Officers and Polling Officer.
-After the publication of Election Schedule by the Election Commission, nomination papers are invited from interested contesting candidates.
-Scrutiny of nomination papers is carried out by the Returning Officers and nomination papers are accepted/rejected.
-Appeals against rejection/acceptance of nomination papers are filed with the appellate tribunal, who decide such appeals summarily within such time as may be notified by the Commission and any order passed thereon shall be final.
-Final list of contesting candidates is prepared and published in the prescribed manner by the Returning Officer after incorporation of the decisions on appeals and after withdrawal of candidature by the candidates if any.
-Election Symbols are also allocated to the candidates by the Returning Officer according to their party affiliation or as an individual candidate, from the list of Election Symbols approved by the Election Commission. The Returning Officer also publishes the names of the contesting candidates arranged in the Urdu alphabetical order specifying against each the symbol allocated to him.
-The Election Commission of Pakistan provides each Returning Officer with copies of voter’s list for his constituency who distributes it among the Presiding Officers in accordance with the polling scheme and assignment of voters to each polling station/booth.
-Voters cast their votes at specified polling stations according to their names in an electoral rolls. Since the election for both National and Provincial Assemblies constituencies are held on the same day, the voter is issued two separate ballot papers for each National Assembly and Provincial Assembly constituency.
-When an elector presents himself at the polling station to vote, the Presiding Officer shall issue a ballot paper to the elector after satisfying himself about the identity of the elector through his identity card.
-Polling is held for 9 hours on the polling day without any break.
-Immediately after the close of the poll votes are counted at the polling stations by the Presiding Officers in presence of the candidates, their Election Agents, and Polling Agents.
-After counting the ballot papers the Presiding Officer prepares a statement of the count indicating the number of votes secured by a candidate, and send it to the Returning Officer along with the election material, un-used ballot papers, spoilt ballot papers, tendered ballot papers, challenged ballot papers, marked copies of the electoral rolls, the counter-foils of used ballot papers, the tendered votes lists, and the challenged votes lists.
-The Presiding Officers also announce the result of count at the polling stations and paste a copy of the result out-side the polling stations.
-After the receipt of statement of counts from the Presiding Officers of the polling stations, the Returning Officer compiles the preliminary un-official result and intimates the results to the Election Commission through fax for announcement on print/electronic media.
-After the announcement of un-official result, the Returning Officer serves a notice to all the contesting candidates and their election agents regarding the day, time and place fixed for consolidation of the result. In the presence of the contesting candidates and election agents, the Returning Officer consolidates the results of the count furnished by the Presiding Officers in the prescribed manner including postal ballot received by him before the polling day.
-Immediately after preparing the consolidated statement the Returning Officer submits a copy to the Election Commission in the prescribed form which publishes the names of the returned candidates in the official Gazette.
LINK : Election Commission of Pakistan Official Website
PDF : Electoral Rolls Booklet (NADRA: 2012)
PDF : Citizen’s Report: The Performance of the Election Commission of Pakistan (PILDAT: 2015)
PDF : Face Sheet: Electoral Rolls Pakistan (IFES: 2013)
PDF : Fact Sheet: Electoral Timeline (Pak Voter)
LINK : ECP wants army to help in door-to-door voter verification (The News: 2013)
PDF : The Performance of the Election Commission of Pakistan (Citizen’s Periodic Reports of the Performance of State Institutions, PILDAT: 2015)
PDF : Electronic Biometric Verification of Voters in Pakistan: a Silver Bullet? (Briefint paper, IP3, 2015
PDF : Training Manual for Polling Agents (PakVoter.org)
PDF : Module for organizaing workshop at local level (PakVoter.org)
PDF : Final Report and Recommendations: Committee on the Use of Electronic Voting Machines in Pakistan (ECP: 2010)