ECP invites international observers, media to monitor upcoming general elections

Paramilitary force soldiers stand in front of the Pakistan Election Commission headquarters in Islamabad.  - AFP/File
Paramilitary force personnel standing in front of the Pakistan Election Commission headquarters in Islamabad. – AFP/File
  • The invitation was given under Section 238 of the Election Act, 2017.
  • ECP says it has an open policy for accreditation of observers.
  • It is said that international observers will ensure transparency and impartiality.

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday gave another indication that it will hold elections in January as it invited international observers and media to monitor the election process to ensure transparency and fairness.

In a two-page invitation sent under Section 238 of the Election Act, 2017, the ECP explained the process for international observers and media to obtain accreditation cards and visas to enter the country for the nationwide elections.

“The Election Commission has announced that the general election is tentatively scheduled for the last week of January 2024. The Election Commission of Pakistan has an open door policy for accreditation of any national and international observer, subject to completion of Code related formalities (Section 238). Election Act 2017),” the ECP said.

The law makes it clear that observers will not be allowed to monitor elections unless they have accreditation which will be issued after relevant documents and security clearances have been granted.

For the visa process, the ECP has informed that it can be obtained through the “Pakistan Online Portal” of the Ministry of External Affairs. Along with the visa application, those wishing to come to the country for elections must also attach a “Recognition Application Form” which is available on the ECP website.

“Once the codal formalities are completed as per law, the ECP will issue accreditation cards to security cleared international observers/media and arrange for briefings for the observers at the ECP Secretariat,” the commission said. It also advised them to follow the advice of the Foreign Office and the Home Ministry.

“We believe that the presence of international observers will add a valuable dimension to the electoral process, providing credibility to our electoral process while ensuring its transparency and fairness. In this regard, all necessary arrangements will be made available to international observers to carry out their duties effectively and independently,” the ECP said.

The watchdog hopes that international observers and media will provide “positive and valuable outputs” during the “significant event” in Pakistan’s “democratic history”.

The country is engulfed in political uncertainty after the Imran Khan government was removed through a no-confidence motion in April 2022.

The coalition government that took over after Imran Khan stepped down from power dissolved the National Assembly on August 9.

Following the premature dissolution of the national and provincial assemblies, the ECP was required to hold elections within a 90-day time period, meaning the elections must be held no earlier than 6 November.

However, the ECP said it is constitutionally bound to draw new boundaries before the elections as the Council of Common Interest (CCI) has approved the census, hence it is not possible to hold the elections within the stipulated time period.

Major political parties including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and others urged the ECP to hold elections at the earliest to end the uncertainty prevailing in the country.

The United States and the United Kingdom have also called for free, fair and timely elections in the country.

But the uncertainty ended to some extent after the Election Commission announced in September that elections would be held in the country in the last week of January.

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