LAHORE: As the provincial capital went to the polls on Wednesday, many of the voters and election staff were left dishevelled by inconsistent and inadequate arrangements on Wednesday.
While speaking to The Express Tribune, voters said that there was discrepancy in voters’ data provided to the polling staff by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Manzoor, a voter from NA-124, claimed the polling station of all his family members, excluding his wife, had been shifted to Iqbal Town without their knowledge. “Our family and our ancestors have been living in this area since partition,” he stressed. Previously, we submitted our votes at the Government Dyal Singh College,” he added.
Similarly, Nousheen Rashid from NA-134 maintained that her family’s votes were transferred to Shadara by ECP, while they voted at Divisional Public School and Government Girls High School in Township in 2013.
However, this was not the only issue that plagued General Elections 2018. Nadeem Butt, a resident of Gawalmandi, said he visited three separate polling stations, but failed to cast his vote. “I checked the electoral rolls that were available with polling agents, but was unable to find my polling station. I was also unable to get a response from ECP’s vote verification service (8300),” he lamented.
Get in line
Voters also had to stand in long queues as the voting process proceeded at a snail’s pace. Naveed Hussain claimed all the staff at polling stations was virtually untrained. “Dozens of voters stood in the unrelenting heat and humidity. Staff took a good ten to fifteen minutes to process the votes,” he added.
Muhammad Rafiq, a voter from Islampura, said that ECP claimed to have spent millions of rupees training election staff and making arrangements. However, the situation on the ground was absolutely pathetic. “It would have been better if they had put up tents outside polling stations so that we could at least have had a little relief,” he said.
The cherry on top of the melting ice cream cake was senior voter Manzoor Ahmed’s claim that the majority of fans installed his polling station were faulty.
“After waiting for a half hour in the sun, voters shuffled into the polling station, expecting some relief. These hopes were quickly dashed after we found only a few functioning fans inside the building,” he revealed. Ahmed also voiced his concern for those students who had to study in these stifling classrooms.
Polling and security staff’s hardships
Staff and security personnel were also less than satisfied with the arrangements.
A presiding officer, requesting anonymity, told The Express Tribune that the commission should have made arrangements to facilitate staff. “All of my assistant presiding officers were working without fans,” he pointed out.
“It was very hot and humid. However, despite our complaints, the commission did not pay us any attention,” he said.
Similar complaints were also made by other members of staff. An assistant presiding officer said it was of the ECP not to allow lunch or prayer breaks. “Food is a basic human necessity and a prayer is an obligatory duty of all Muslims. But the commission overlooked these things,” he said.
In several constituencies, law enforcement agencies did not recognize media accreditation cards issued by ECP. At Islamia College in Gawalmandi and at Aitcheson College in Lahore, army officials did not permit media personnel to witness the process.
Haroon, a soldier, revealed that he had clear orders from his general that no media personnel would be allowed inside the polling station, even if they are without a camera and a mobile phone. This was repeated by several other soldiers who were questioned by The Express Tribune.
In Lahore Cantonment, soldiers asked reporters to show a letter from the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) if they wished to go inside the polling stations. However, in some polling stations, army officials did allow reporters inside polling stations and also did not prevent them from taking pictures and capturing video footage.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2018.