ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday unveiled the third five-year strategic plan setting specific targets to meet the challenge of conducting one of the largest single-day elections in the world and bridge gaps in the legal framework governing elections.
The plan unveiled by Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza has set targets for improving electoral laws for national and local elections as its first strategic goal. Under the goal, the ECP plans to review the Elections Act 2017 and propose amendments to improve it.
The ECP also plans to further improve the Election Rules 2017 and Codes of Conduct for political parties, candidates, election agents, polling agents, observers, media, security agencies, polling staff and other stakeholders. Similarly, the commission will continue to provide technical assistance and advice on local government acts to ensure that these laws remain legally congruent with the Elections Act and operationally feasible.
Referring to the areas where the law could be strengthened, the strategic plan proposes amendments to limit financial transactions made by political parties to single bank account, ‘response’ to non-compliance of legal obligations like intra-party elections and timely submission of statements of assets and liabilities, fixing a quota for women in the list of 2,000 members required for enlistment of a political party and appointment of a single returning officer for a National Assembly constituency and associated provincial assembly constituencies.
Under the second pillar of ‘electoral integrity and public perception’, the ECP seeks to enhance stakeholders’ engagement in the electoral process, institutionalise transparency and enhance public access to information in electoral management.
Under the third pillar of ‘institutional development’, the commission wants to strengthen its offices’ infrastructure for a more conducive working environment. The targeted actions include construction of the ECP’s own purpose-built offices at provincial, regional and district levels and a federal election academy at Islamabad.
The fourth strategic pillar is ‘training and capacity building’ with a goal to strengthen the capacity of ECP employees by providing quality trainings and learning opportunities at national and international levels. The plan highlights that every election requires a well-trained electoral workforce of hundreds of thousands of individuals sourced temporarily from other government institutions for the conduct of elections nationwide and points out that a total of 131 district returning officers, 849 returning officers, 183,407 presiding officers and 670,812 assistant presiding and polling officers had been trained by 2,644 master trainers for the conduct of 2018 elections, in addition to training of security personnel.
The fifth pillar is ‘election operation’ which seeks to improve political parties’ enlistment process and scrutiny of campaign expenditures, election expenses and statements of assets and liabilities. The strategic actions proposed under this head include revision and improvement of SOPs (standard operating procedures) for scrutiny of documents submitted by political parties, development and operationalisation of a management information system for political parties’ enlistment, election symbols and financial statements and improvement of SOPs for submission and scrutiny of campaign expenditures by contesting candidates and statements of assets and liabilities by the members of different legislatures.
The goals under the sixth pillar of ‘budget and procurement’ include improving planning, implementation, transparency and quality assurance in the management of procurements, budget and finance and to ensure financial autonomy and improving the ECP’s financial management system.
The seventh pillar of ‘voters’ registration and participation’ seeks to ensure that eligible citizens, especially women and socially-excluded groups, get CNICs and are registered as voters. The targeted actions include review of SOPs for voters’ registration and development and execution of a plan with clear targets for the National Database and Registration Authority to bridge gender gap and ensure issuance of CNIC to all eligible citizens.
The eighth pillar is ‘information, communication and electoral technologies’ and its goals include improving electoral technologies used during the past elections to enhance transparency, awareness and efficiency in electoral processes.
The ninth pillar of ‘electoral complaints and dispute resolution’ sets a goal to ensure timely disposal of electoral complaints and adjudication of electoral disputes. The targeted actions include development and deployment of complaint management system to ensure timely disposal of electoral complaints and adjudication of electoral disputes, revision of the existing dispute resolution mechanism and engaging relevant stakeholders for its improvement. Two other strategic pillars include gender mainstreaming and social inclusion and monitoring, valuation and research.