LAHORE - A constitutional petition has been moved to the Supreme Court to stop rigging in 2018 general elections, and to improve facilities and strength of the polling staff, safety and protection of polling staff, especially the female presiding officers.

Professor Mohsin Raza Joiya, Chairman of Nawa-e-Asatiza, filed the petition through Advocate Khawar Mahmood, , saying that after 2013 general elections, it was witnessed that election was declared null and void in various constituencies due to rigging but neither the finding was conducted nor any responsibility was fixed on anyone.

He says 2018 general elections now have approached but questions that what steps have been taken so far by the Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure transparency and reforms. He points out that all elections held in the past were not accepted by all the political parties and democratic system always remained in danger.

Mohsin says the process of election is conducted by the returning officer who only supervises the elections but in-fact, practically, election is conducted by the presiding officer, who is the fully responsible of the election at the polling station. But the presiding officers, the petitioner says, face huge problems in conducting elections as he and his poling staff collect election material from the Returning Officers one day before the election, this practice is very hectic for the presiding officer and his polling staff particularly for the lady Presiding Officers and her polling staff.

He states no facility is ever provided to the presiding officer and the polling staff for boarding of the election material like ballot boxes. Polling staff take the material to the polling station on their own and they are responsible to keep intact the election material. However, he points out that keeping election material intact for a presiding officer is unsafe as the staff is not provided security. Presiding Officer and staff reach far flung areas one day before the election and the ECP does not provide them accommodation to spend the night in those far flung areas.

The polling staff find no option to stay for a night except the house of any big landlord, influential person of that area—a practice that damages the process of the fair election, he says. He further says that after conducting the election and after all the requisite proceedings it is the duty of the Presiding Officer to handover the election material to the Returning Officer.

The petitioner states that three persons per polling are insufficient to run the election smoothly while four minutes are minimum required for completion the record of a voter for casting a vote. Beside it, two constables/razakars are appointed to maintain the law and order situation on a polling station who are in sufficient to maintain the Law and Order. 

He submits the female workers who are assigned duties by the ECP through a list provided by their departments and thus, a female resident in east of the district is appointed in the west corner. As they have to reach polling station one day before their duty they have to spent night in the houses of unknown persons as it is humiliation and security risk for them, he says.

He also says that a polling station is the basic unit for the process of election that should be fully safe and the Presiding Officer and his polling staff is responsible to conduct the peaceful free and  fair election  only, while the additional duties like law and order at the polling station, smooth running of polling, dispute management, security of unissued material over burden the presiding officer which makes his task more impossible as a human being, the duty of law and order and the election material may be handed over to the law enforcement agency like Pakistan Rangers.

He asked the court to direct the ECP to check rigging that how it happened in the past and how it could be stopped in the  future, verification through thumb impression where turnout comes more than 50 per cent, to provide polling material at polling station and collect from the same stations.  He also prayed the court to order the ECP to divide the number of polling booths as the number of voters would not exceed to 200 maximum per booths, female staff be appointed within the 15 kilometer radium from their residence and to ensure safety and protection of the polling staff.