The debacle surrounding the delayed announcement of election results has once again spotlighted the glaring inadequacies of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in ensuring a smooth and timely electoral process. Despite assurances from Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and other ECP officials regarding the efficiency of their systems, the reality starkly contrasted with their promises on the election day.
Ahead of the polls, Chief Election Commission (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja had assured that the watchdog had an exclusive and independent networking system, and that there would be no delay in election results. Similarly, other ECP officials including their spokespersons are on record saying that the results will be announced according to the timeframe enshrined in the election act. However, what happened on the election date has only brought embarrassment to the whole nation and voices are now being raised from important capitals and organizations over the credibility of the process.
The chaos ensuing from the delay, compounded by the abrupt shutdown of mobile phone services, not only disrupted the electoral process but also ignited widespread concerns regarding the integrity of the elections. The directive from the Chief Election Commissioner to returning officers (ROs) to announce results within a mere 30-minute timeframe further fueled confusion and chaos, highlighting the disconnect between expectations and practical realities.
The introduction of the Election Management System (EMS) was purported to be an improvement over the failed Result Transmission System (RTS) of 2018. However, the system’s effectiveness was nullified by the lack of internet connectivity, rendering it ineffective in streamlining the result transmission process. This failure underscores a fundamental flaw in the ECP’s planning and execution, raising doubts about its preparedness for such critical tasks.
Elections 2024 and Pakistan
The ECP’s inability to ensure timely results not only breaches the election act’s mandated timeframe but also raises serious questions about the transparency and fairness of the electoral process. Already our country is struck in a prolonged political instability and the conduct of the ECP can prove to be adding fuel to the fire. Allegations of rigging and irregularities from candidates, coupled with other quarters expressing concerns about the elections’ integrity, can further erode public trust in the electoral system.
The United States, Britain, and the European Union have all expressed reservations about the reported irregularities and have called for a thorough investigation. Some U.S. lawmakers have even urged the State Department not to recognize a winner until allegations of misconduct are addressed, signaling the gravity of the situation and the urgent need for accountability and transparency within the ECP.
The exorbitant costs associated with the 2024 general elections, estimated at Rs42 billion, underscore the significant investment made in ensuring a fair and democratic electoral process. However, persistent allegations of rigging and malpractice despite such substantial expenditures raise serious doubts about the efficacy of the ECP’s operations and resource allocation.
As the candidates who have concerns over the compilation of results are approaching courts, the ball is now in the court of the judiciary to timely address election-related complaints and deliver justice. It is important to uphold the trust of the people in the democratic system. We also expect that the political parties will tread forward carefully. Respecting the mandate of each other, they need to collectively move forward to bring down the political temperature and lead the country in the right economic direction.