ELECTION COMMISSION OF PAKISTAN: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION

The following gives a brief introduction of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), including its status in the Constitution of Pakistan and the organisational structure across the country from its Secretariat in Islamabad to the Provincial Offices down to Divisional and District levels. It will help illustrate the scale of the work of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as well as the nature of issues it is confronted with.

Constitution of Pakistan and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)
The Election Commission of Pakistan (Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is a Constitutional body, responsible for holding free and fair elections in the country. Under Article 218 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Election Commission is charged with the duty of organising and conducting elections and making such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly and fairly.

Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commission
The Commission, under clause (2) of Article 218 of the Constitution, consists of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) as Chairman and four Members appointed by the President of Pakistan. Through the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the procedure of appointment of the CEC and the Members of the Commission has been changed. They are appointed at the recommendation of a Parliamentary Committee comprising members from Treasury and Opposition Benches. Article 219 of the Constitution, as a result of the 18th Amendment, charges the Commission with the responsibility of preparing electoral rolls and revising them annually as well as conducting elections to the Senate or filling up the vacant seats in the Parliament and the Provincial Assemblies. Further, the Commission can also appoint Election Tribunals to adjudicate upon post-election disputes and conduct local government elections. With reference to Article 213 of the Constitution, the CEC has to be a serving or a former judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court eligible for appointment as Judge of the Supreme Court. The Members of the Election Commission shall be former judges of each of the four High Courts.

Assistance to the Election Commission
All executive authorities in the Federation and Provinces, under Article 220 of the Constitution, are bound to assist the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commission in the discharge of his or its functions.

Formation of the Election Commission of Pakistan
The Election Commission was first formed in 1956 with the promulgation of the first Constitution of Pakistan. Over the years, the Election Commission has gone through a transformation that has changed its outlook, and it has become an open and flexible institution that sees its future as a dynamic body playing its role effectively for strengthening the country’s democratic representation system.

Achievements of the Election Commission
Despite being faced with various challenges, the Election Commission has successfully conducted General Elections in Pakistan from 1970 through 2008 (1970, 1977, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2002 and 2008). The 2008 General Elections were the ninth elections held on the basis of direct vote—prior to 1970, indirect elections to the National and Provincial Assemblies had been held by the Election Commission. With the introduction of new Local Government systems in the country under the Devolution Plan in 2000, the elections to the Local Government institutions were conducted in 2000-01 and 2005 by the Chief Election Commissioner.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has been managing elections in the country that stands sixth in the world in terms of population and this cannot be said to be an easy task. Though the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has been managing huge election operations, it has always been aware of its limitations, potentials and prospects.

Organisational Structure of the Election Commission of Pakistan
While overall leadership of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) rests with the Chief Election Commissioner, the Secretary Election Commission manages the human and material resources, formulates policies and applies them in order to create conditions where the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is able to effectively perform its functions. The Secretary has the support of various Joint Secretaries. In the hierarchical set-up, the Joint Secretaries are assisted by a number of Deputy Secretaries and Section Officers. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has more than 1800 staff members across the country. The following gives a view of the current organisational structure of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP):

Election Commission of Pakistan Secretariat

The Secretariat of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is situated in Islamabad and is headed by the Secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), who manages the functions of the organisation throughout the country. The Secretariat consists of four Wings: the Election Wing, the Budget Wing, the Administration Wing, and the Local Government Elections Wing. Each of the Wings is headed by a Joint Secretary. The Joint Secretaries are assisted by a certain number of Deputy Secretaries. The Wings are divided into various sections headed by the Section Officers and are staffed by a number of Superintendents, Assistants, Stenographers, Steno Typists, Upper Division Clerks, Lower Division Clerks and others. There are two Directorates in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP): Information Technology and Public Relations. The former is headed by a Director General, who is assisted by two Directors and some Assistant Directors. The Public Relations Directorate is led by a Director, who is assisted by a Deputy Director. The Librarian takes care of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s library whereas the Research Branch is headed by a Research Officer.

Provincial Election Commissioners’ Offices
The provincial set-up of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is headed by a Provincial Election Commissioner (PEC). The PECs’ offices are located in the four provincial capitals: Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta. The PECs are supported by the Joint Provincial Election Commissioners (JPECs)—there is one JPEC in each of the four provincial offices. A PEC office also houses Deputy Election Commissioner(s), a few Assistant Election Commissioners and a number of Superintendents, Assistants, Stenographers, Steno Typists, Upper Division Clerks, Lower Division Clerks and others. With the introduction of Information Technology in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), every province has a Director MIS (Management Information System) assisted by two Assistant Directors, one Hardware Expert and Data Entry Operators. The PEC Office manages the affairs of the province with the help of Deputy Election Commissioners (at Divisional Level) and Assistant Election Commissioners (AEC) and Election Officers (EOs) at the district level.

Deputy Election Commissioners’ (DECs) Offices
The Election Commission of Pakistan has assigned 26 DECs to as many revenue divisions in the country. The DECs mainly play the role of a link between the PEC Office and AECs. They also liaise with the divisional and district administration and other public stakeholders in their respective jurisdiction. At divisional headquarters, except in Sindh province, DECs also function as Registration Officers.

Assistant Election Commissioners’ (AECs) Offices
The lowest tier of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s organisational set-up in the country is at the district level, headed by an AEC. There are 124 such district offices throughout Pakistan. The AEC is assisted by an Election Officer. In addition to managing the district office and establishing and maintaining liaison with district administration and other executive authorities, the AEC is also the Registration Officer tasked with maintaining electoral rolls. The staff working with the AECs includes Upper Division Clerks, Lower Division Clerks and others.

 
INTRODUCTION TO THE STRATEGIC PLAN
 
The Election Commission of Pakistan (Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has embarked upon a process of positive change by working in a systematic manner, and strategically addressing the issues and setting new professional standards.

Being an organisation that is responsible for organising elections to the National and Provincial Assemblies, the Election Commission of Pakistan in its Strategic Plan has encompassed all relevant areas. It realises the significance of having a well planned approach in view of the future challenges it may confront.

The goals and objectives set by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the plan will have impact on its overall capacity and performance. By creating new wings and sections, and equipping its officers and staff with the needed skills, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has adopted a holistic approach by going beyond the issues with a clear vision and mission.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has developed this Strategic Plan through a participatory process and thus it is completely owned by its employees across the country – a prerequisite for its success.

FROM INCEPTION TO MATERIALISATION: STRATEGIC PLANNING PROCESS
In order to develop the Strategic Plan, the Election Commission of Pakistan (Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has created conditions where many of its employees were able to participate and contribute towards its development. Consultations with Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) personnel were held at the central level and in the four provincial capitals—Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) also consulted with voters from various walks of life throughout the country including local political leaders, contesting candidates, NGOs, lawyers, teachers, women, minorities, persons with disabilities, local council representatives, retired and working government servants, former Returning Officers and polling personnel. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) conducted two phases of external consultations: the first at the beginning of the strategic planning process; and the second phase following the development of the draft Plan.

During the first phase of external consultations, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) convened district-level consultations by using focus group methodology where a set of standard, open- ended questions were placed before the participants. The discussion mainly revolved around issues and suggestions relating to: voter registration, electoral rolls, polling, political parties, polling agents, minorities, participation of voters, persons with disabilities, capacity of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), and the computerised national identity card (CNIC). Wherever possible, separate discussions were held with female and male groups. It was for the first time that voters, local political leaders and people who perform election duties were directly contacted to get their views and ideas for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s planning. Their inputs have been incorporated to the Strategic Plan.

In the second phase the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) also undertook a consultation process at the national level with the international and national stakeholders – the Election Support Group, political parties and civil society organisations in order to share with them the plan and to seek their inputs. The ESG represents major international organisations and diplomatic missions in Pakistan.

Major political parties participated in the consultation meetings including: Pakistan Muslim League (Q), Pakistan Muslim League (F), Balochistan National Party (Mengal), National Party, Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party, Pakistan Peoples Party (Sherpao), Jamat-e-Islami Pakistan, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Jamhoori Wattan Party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, Awami National Party, Pakistan Muslim League (N) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F).

The CSOs which took part in consultation were Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, Centre for Civic Education, Aurat Foundation, Free and Fair Election Network, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Pattan, Village Friends Organisation, Special Talent Exchange Programme, Intermedia, Sustainable Development Policy Institute and IRC.

The Strategic Plan also referred to the review process undertaken after the 2008 General Elections including the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s own internal review and the examination of the reports of the domestic and international election observers and others. The Strategic Planning Core Group and the Strategic Planning Committee analysed all the information obtained through various channels and developed the strategic goals and objectives. The officers and staff of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) actively participated throughout the plan development phases.