ECP takes unprecedented step in ensuring election transparency and credibility

ECP takes unprecedented step in ensuring election transparency and credibility

In a clear sign of Pakistan moving closer to holding elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) extended invitations to international observers and media on Wednesday, with the aim of enhancing the "credibility" of the electoral process.

In a two-page invitation, the ECP outlined the procedure for international observers and media to obtain accreditation cards and visas for entry into the country. This invitation has been issued under Section 238 of the Elections Act, 2017.

The ECP noted, "The Election Commission has tentatively scheduled the General Election for the last week of January 2024. The Election Commission of Pakistan has an Open Door Policy for accrediting both national and international observers, subject to the fulfillment of the required formalities as per Section 238 of the Elections Act 2017."

It's worth noting that the law explicitly states that observers must not be admitted until they have received proper accreditation, which is granted after thorough scrutiny of relevant documents and security clearances. Regarding the visa application process, the ECP explained that it can be obtained through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' "Pakistan Online Portal."

Applicants interested in coming to Pakistan for the elections must also submit the "accreditation application form" available on the ECP's website. Upon completing the necessary formalities in accordance with the law, the ECP will issue accreditation cards to internationally cleared observers and media.

The commission will also provide briefings for observers at the ECP Secretariat and advise them to follow guidelines provided by the Foreign Office and the interior ministry. The ECP expressed its belief that the presence of international observers will significantly contribute to the transparency and impartiality of the electoral process, thereby lending credibility to Pakistan's democratic proceedings.

The commission hopes that international observers and media will provide a positive and valuable contribution during this significant event in Pakistan's democratic history. Pakistan has experienced political uncertainty since the removal of the Imran Khan government through a no-confidence motion in April 2022.

A coalition government that assumed power after Khan's removal dissolved the National Assembly in August. The ECP was subsequently tasked with holding elections within 90 days, which meant the polls should have occurred no later than November 6.

However, the ECP stated that redrawing electoral boundaries was constitutionally required following the approval of the census by the Council of Common Interest (CCI), making it impossible to hold elections within the stipulated timeframe. Major political parties, including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), called on the ECP to hold elections at the earliest to address the prevailing uncertainty in the country.

The United States and the United Kingdom have also advocated for free, fair, and timely elections in Pakistan. In September, the ECP alleviated some uncertainty by announcing its intention to conduct elections in the last week of January.