Voting Challenges

The recent general election in Pakistan, touted as the most expen­sive in the country’s history at a staggering cost of Rs42 billion, was marred by significant challenges stemming from the unexpected disruption of internet and mobile phone services.

Despite assurances from the caretaker government that network connec­tivity would not be affected on election day, mobile phone services remained suspended across the nation, causing widespread problems for voters, po­litical actors, polling agents, observers, and reporters alike. This abrupt dis­ruption not only hindered communication but also raised serious concerns about the transparency and integrity of the electoral process.

The reliance on the Election Management System (EMS) for the time­ly transmission of election results proved to be a major stumbling block in ensuring the smooth conduct of the elections. Despite assurances of an independent system not reliant on internet connectivity, the inability of presiding officers to electronically transmit results due to the internet shutdown highlighted the fragility of the electoral infrastructure.

The mismanagement and altercations witnessed at polling station offic­es exacerbated the challenges faced during the election. Reports of voters being unable to access information related to their polling stations due to the internet shutdown, coupled with logistical difficulties in coordinat­ing access to polling stations, underscore the need for robust contingency plans and reliable communication channels in electoral processes. The in­ability to restore mobile and internet services promptly, despite clear di­rectives from the Sindh High Court and mounting pressure from human rights organisations, reflects a worrying disregard for voters’ rights and the democratic process.

It is imperative for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to imple­ment comprehensive contingency plans that account for unforeseen dis­ruptions, including the suspension of mobile and internet services. This may involve establishing alternative communication channels and backup systems to ensure the timely transmission of election results and main­tain public confidence in the electoral process.

Additionally, greater transparency and accountability in decision-making regarding the shutdown of essential services are essential to uphold citi­zens’ rights and prevent undue interference in the democratic process. Only through concerted efforts to address these challenges can Pakistan uphold its democratic principles and foster public trust in the electoral process

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