The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday sought to defend the days-long delay in the issuance of results for the Feb. 8 general elections, citing various security and logistical challenges, and stressing on the importance of ensuring accuracy and protection of human lives.
Prior to the polls, the electoral had announced it would announce all results by 2 a.m. after polling ended at 5 p.m., adding even delayed results would be delivered no later than 10 a.m. on the day after elections. However, results continued to pour in until Monday, triggering allegations of rigging and manipulation that have attracted global calls for a probe through the country’s legal system.
In a statement addressing the criticism, the ECP said it had to reckon with several challenges before and during the electoral process, adding various steps were taken to address them. It said it had prioritized peaceful polling, security of polling staff, transportation of polling material and accurate compilation of election over speedy collation of results. It further maintained it would be “inappropriate” to put human lives at stake and cast doubts over the accuracy of election results for the sake of speedy results.
Referring to terror attacks in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa ahead of the polls, the statement acknowledged that conducting elections was a “challenge.” It noted a risk of derailing the entire process by risking human lives to speed up the election process and, especially, the results.
Noting that suspension of mobile networks, lack of communication access, polling stations in far-flung areas, travel at night, harsh weather and snow, and sit-ins by political parties had caused difficulties in the transportation of election results, it said some areas of Balochistan had to use helicopters to transport polling staff and materials. Similarly, it said, the offices of five to six returning officers were set up in one place in many parts of the country.
After the polling, read the statement, crowds gathered outside offices, making it difficult for the staff to submit the polling material for counting, which further delayed the final compilation. It noted that even in areas where election results were delayed, there was a mixed polling trend, showing no single party benefited or lost.
On the Election Management System (EMS), which has come under much criticism, the ECP said its sole function was prepare and edit results electronically submitted by presiding officers to returning officers. Subsequently, the returning officers would prepare the provisional Form-47 result. Section 90 of the Elections Act, 2017, it said required presiding officers to reach the offices of returning officers in person. The EMS installed in RO offices, it claimed, was not dependent on internet connectivity and worked satisfactorily. However, it added, an EMS mobile app installed in the mobile phones of the presiding officers required cellular connectivity to share Form-45s, which was not functional.
“It is important to mention that in the 2018 general elections, the first result was received at 4 a.m. while in 2024, the first result was received at 2 a.m.,” it said, adding results were completed in three days in 2018, while they were completed in one-and-a-half days on most constituencies in 2024.
Rejecting allegations of widespread rigging except for a few constituencies where “isolated incidents” of malpractice took place, the ECP said candidates had the option of various forums to seek resolution of their complaints. Additionally, it said, four counters were set up at the ECP Secretariat in Islamabad for litigants to file complaints over alleged rigging.