The Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) released a statement on its preliminary findings at a press conference in Islamabad, while awaiting the release of complete results from the Electoral Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The observers called for patience and restraint as the results process is finalised.
Chairperson of the Commonwealth Observer Group, former President of Nigeria, HE Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, said:
“It is our hope that the process will be concluded effectively and that it will reflect the will of the people. I speak from experience in calling for candidates to be magnanimous in victory, and gracious in defeat. We call on all those with grievances to address disputes through prescribed election dispute resolution mechanisms”.
“Elections are a defining moment in every democracy, and each election offers an opportunity to take forward the positive gains made in the previous cycle.”
The COG’s interim statement also noted the arrangements made by the Election Commission of Pakistan. The observer group commended the presence of dedicated polling stations for women to facilitate the participation of female voters. The statement also said:
“We wish to commend the ECP and its staff for the substantial amount of work and the detailed logistical preparations they made for the elections”.
“While noting some delays involved in proceeding with these general elections, we also acknowledge the significant challenges in organising an election involving around 128 million registered voters, a marked increase from the approximately 106 million registered voters in 2018.”
The observer group’s interim statement also raised concerns about the restrictions placed on internet access and, in particular, the shutdown of internet and mobile phone services on election day, which curtailed freedom of speech, ease of communication and other political rights. The statement continued:
“We note the impact of legal decisions on the ability of some candidates to run for office in the days leading up to Election Day, including a decision which disallowed the party symbol of a main political party”.
“Stakeholders expressed concerns about the impact of this decision, insofar as it curtailed the right of voters to exercise their franchise, particularly illiterate voters. They also conveyed concerns that members of the affected party would not be eligible for reserved seats.”
The Commonwealth Observer Group was constituted by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland KC, and arrived in Pakistan on 1 February 2024. The observers received briefings from a variety of local stakeholders from 2 to 5 February. Observers were deployed to various areas on 6 February, covering Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Karachi, Hyderabad and Abbottabad.
The COG will now prepare its final report, an independent report setting out its full findings on the entire electoral process and detailed recommendations. The report will be submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, before being shared with the Government of Pakistan and will then be publicly available.
Charmaine Wright Head of Media Relations, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
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