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HRCP Seeks End to Uncertainty on General Elections

In statement, rights body expresses alarm over attempts by far-right parties to carve out political space through sectarian strife

by Staff Report

HRCP Chairperson Hina Jilani

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Sunday called on the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to end uncertainty over general elections by “immediately” issuing an election schedule.

In a statement issued after a meeting of its governing council, the rights watchdog expressed “immense concern” over the uncertainty surrounding the general elections. Stressing on the ECP to “promptly” announce an election schedule under which polls would held as close as possible to 90 days following the dissolution of the National Assembly, it said the ongoing delimitation process should be completed quickly and efficiently and not used as an excuse to delay elections.

“Moreover, HRCP is concerned by the scope for manipulating the electoral process by institutions such as NADRA and urges the ECP to guard against this possibility,” it added.

The HRCP also expressed alarm over the increasingly polarized environment that was exacerbating religious and sectarian divisions “reportedly to carve out artificial political space for far right parties such as the TLP.” Noting the divisive and violent tactics used by such parties to build their political identities at the expense of religious minorities and sects was “eating into organic political and civic spaces,” it warned that continuing terrorist violence in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was also hampering campaigning in the province. This, it stressed, was a repeating pattern that could not be allowed to continue.

“Apart from ensuring that free, fair and credible elections take place, the test of the current caretaker government is to see not only whether it will protect and respect people’s right to protest peacefully, but also whether it will respond to the issues that ordinary citizens are mobilizing around,” it added, referring to recent protests over high electricity bills and rampant inflation.

Last week, after concluding consultative meetings with delegations of all major political parties, the ECP announced it was reducing the timeline for delimitation and would now concluded it on Nov. 30, rather than the earlier announced Dec. 14. It said it would also issue an election schedule accordingly, but has yet to clarify when, exactly, the general elections would take place. Per the Constitution, general elections must take place within 90 days of the dissolution of an assembly.

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