The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday warned it is considering delaying polling in constituencies where it has been directed to change electoral symbols already allocated to candidates.
In a statement, the electoral body noted that election symbols were being changed through various forums, referring to the judicial challenges lodged by various candidates over this dissatisfaction with the symbols allotted to them. It stressed that, as per its schedule, it had already initiated the printing of ballot papers after the allotment of election symbols, with the process underway at three different printing corporations.
“If the process of changing the election symbols continues in the same way, there is a fear of election delay, because the ballot papers will have to be reprinted for which time is already limited and on the other hand, the special paper available for the ballot papers will also be lost,” it said. According to the ECP, it has witnessed more than 33 percent increase in the number of candidates for the upcoming general elections, with 18,059 aspirants compared to the 11,700 who contested the 2018 polls.
Accordingly, it said, 800 tons of paper were used to print 220 million ballot papers in the 2018 elections, while this year an estimated 2,070 tons of paper were required to print 260 million ballot papers, particularly in light of updated electoral rolls following fresh delimitation of constituencies.
The electoral body said that in light of these limitation, it had repeatedly issued instructions to relevant officials that election symbols should not be changed once the printing had started. However, it said, the trend of changing election symbols was ongoing and if it were not halted, there would be no choice but to postpone elections in constituencies where the problem persists.
Leaders of both the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have moved courts against the symbols allotted to them, with the former maintaining its candidates were not allotted the ‘arrow’ symbol’ and the latter demanding changes because they are dissatisfied with the symbols allotted to them as independent candidates. Electoral symbols have an outsized influence in Pakistan’s elections due to a large number of its population being functionally illiterate and unable to read the names of candidates printed on ballots.
Overall, per the ECP, it has allotted 150 symbols to political parties and another 174 to independent candidates for this election.