The mechanism of scrutiny, adopted for the first time in the country, drew tremendous response from general public with an average of over 50,000 hits per minute choking the official website of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Out of around 12,000 candidates who have filed their nomination papers for the May 11 general elections, the Election Commission (EC) has sent more than 5,000 nominations back to the returning officers with feedback from tax, banking and accountability authorities.
According to data compiled by the commission, it received copies of a total of 10,478 nomination forms by 6 pm on Monday. The figure crossed 11,836 by 10:30 pm while some forms were still awaited till filing of this report.
Of the 10,478 nomination forms the ECP had received, more than 3,794 candidates are in the field for 272 general seats of the National Assembly (NA) who will be going through what the election authorities call ‘ruthless’ scrutiny that will continue till April 7th.
The 342-member lower house of the parliament has 272 general seats on which registered voters cast their ballots while 60 seats are reserved for women and 10 for non-Muslims.
Meanwhile, nomination forms from some far-flung areas where internet facilities are not available are yet to be received at the ECP headquarters in Islamabad.
According to newly adopted procedure by ECP, the nomination papers submitted by candidates to the returning officers are forwarded to the ECP headquarters. ECP then sends the relevant information to National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) which links this information with the family tree of the candidate.
The same is forwarded to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB). These institutions check the financial and criminal history of the candidates returning with a clearance or objection to the ECP which forwards it to district retuning officers who conduct final scrutiny.
Fear of strict scrutiny has led to lesser number of people filing their nomination papers compared to the 2008 general elections when a total of 15,056 candidates had initially filed their candidatures.
For the national assembly a total number of 1,906 candidates filed nominations from Punjab that has 149 directly elected seats for the lower house of parliament.
Similarly, from Sindh which has 61 general seats for the national assembly a total of 429 candidates filed their papers. Most number of nominations papers for the national assembly came from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which has 35 seats with 1,094 candidates in competition.
For 14 general seats of Balochistan, ECP has received 178 nomination papers. However, the data does not mention how many candidates are in the field from Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Meanwhile, a total of 106 candidates are in the race for 10 reserved seats for non-Muslims in the National Assembly.
The 371-member Punjab Assembly has a total of 297 general seats for which ECP received 3,747 nomination forms. For provincial assembly of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa a total of 1,840 candidates filed their nominations. Around 414 candidates filed nomination papers for 65-member Balochistan Assembly of which 51 are general seats.
After preliminary scrutiny through NADRA, FBR, SBP and NAB, the poll body sent 4,847 forms back to the returning officers who are authorised to conduct scrutiny of these papers based on the feedback they would be getting from centre and objections filed by rival candidates.
Appeals against the decisions of the returning officers will be heard by appellate tribunals comprising judges of the high courts in the respective provinces.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2013.
Correction: An earlier version of the story contained an incorrect image. The error is regretted.