This part gives a brief introduction to the Election Commission (EC)/ECP, including its Constitutional status and obligations to deliver free, fair and transparent elections for the National Assembly, Provincial Assemblies, Senate and local government institutions. It also covers the organizational structure – the Secretariat at Islamabad, the four provincial capitals, all divisions and districts of the country.
Constitution of Pakistan and the Election Commission
The Election Commission is a Constitutional body, responsible for organizing and conducting elections in the country. Under Article 218(3) of the Constitution, the 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.” The Supreme Court of Pakistan, in its judgment in Workers Party case (Constitution Petition No. 87/2011), provided a detailed explanation of the words ‘honestly’, ‘justly’ and ‘fairly’ and explained powers of the Commission under Article 218(3) of the Constitution.
The Commission, under Article 218 of the Constitution, consists of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) as Chairman and four Members appointed at the recommendation of a Parliamentary Committee comprising equal members from the Treasury and the Opposition benches. Article 219 of the Constitution, charges the Commission with the responsibility of holding general elections to the National Assembly, Provincial Assemblies and the local governments, preparing electoral rolls and revising them annually as well as conducting elections to the Senate and filling up the vacant seats in the Parliament and the Provincial Assemblies. Article 140-A also gives the ECP the responsibility of holding local government elections. Further, the Commission is also empowered to appoint Election Tribunals to adjudicate upon post-election disputes.
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 have to be former judges of the four High Courts from each province – Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), Punjab and Sindh.
All executive authorities in the Federation and Provinces, under Article 220 of the Constitution, are required to assist the Election Commission in the discharge of its functions.
Despite being faced with various challenges, the Election Commission has successfully conducted General Elections from 1970 through 2013 (1970, 1977, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2002, 2008 and 2013). The 2013 General Elections were the tenth elections held on the basis of direct vote—prior to 1970 indirect elections were held to the National and Provincial Assemblies.
The ECP has been managing elections in Pakistan, which stands sixth in the world in terms of population. Though the ECP has been managing huge election operations, it has always been aware of its limitations, potentials and prospects in delivering elections to the Pakistani nation.
Organizational Structure of the Election Commission of Pakistan
In order to organize and conduct elections honestly, justly and fairly the Election Commission is supported by its Secretariat and the countrywide network of offices led by the Secretary ECP. The Secretary manages human and material resources, formulates policies and applies them in order to create conditions where the ECP as an organization is able to effectively perform its functions. The Secretary has the support of an Additional Secretary, various Director Generals (DGs), Provincial Election Commissioners (PECs), Additional Director Generals (ADGs) and other officers. In the hierarchical set-up, the DGs are assisted by ADGs and a number of Directors, Deputy Directors and Assistant Directors. The ECP has more than 2,200 staff members across the country. The following gives a view of the current organizational structure of the ECP:
Election Commission of Pakistan Secretariat
The Secretariat of the ECP is situated in Islamabad and is headed by Secretary of the ECP, who manages the functions of the organization throughout the country. The Secretariat consists of various wings and units: Election Wing, Budget Wing, Administration Wing, Local Government Wing, Information Technology Wing, Training Wing, Law Directorate and Public Relations Directorate. Each of the Wings/Directorates/Units is headed by either a DG or an ADG. The DGs are assisted by ADGs, Directors, Deputy Directors and Assistant Directors. The ECP has also established two new units – Electoral Finance Unit and Gender Unit – that are headed by ADGs.
Provincial Election Commissioners’ Offices
The provincial set-up of the ECP is headed by a Provincial Election Commissioner (PEC). Their offices are located in the four provincial capitals: Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta. The PECs are supported by Joint Provincial Election Commissioners (JPECs), Directors, Deputy Directors, Assistant Directors and other staff. There is one JPEC in each of the four provincial offices.
Regional Election Commissioners’ Offices The ECP has Regional Election Commissioners (RECs) in as many divisions of the country. The RECs mainly play the role of a link between the PEC Office and DECs. They also liaise with the divisional and district administrations and other public stakeholders in their respective jurisdiction.
District Election Commissioners’ Offices
The lowest tier of the ECP’s organizational set-up in the country is at the district level, headed by a DEC. There are 126 district offices throughout the country. In addition to managing the district office, and establishing and maintaining liaison with district administration and other executive authorities, a DEC also functions as Registration Officer tasked with maintaining the electoral rolls. The ECP also has Election Officers in the districts to assist the DECs in various areas of their work. The ECP has clerical support staff across the organization. They assist in the various departments.
Strategic planning is a management tool to plan and implement better in a proactive manner. Change is imminent, and despite resistance, in whatever form, it is bound to happen. Many organizations struggle to understand this. Strategic planning provides parameters to those who believe that change can be managed better by having a clear vision and mission supported with realistic targets and practical implementation methodologies. The best way of dealing with change and challenges is to anticipate them, preempt them and use them as a potential for development instead of reacting to situations and adopting short term and quick fix approaches.
The ECP defined its vision and mission at the time of formulating its first Five-Year Strategic Plan based on its status and responsibilities given in Article 218(3) of the Constitution. The Election Commission is responsible to “organize and conduct the election and to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law, and that corrupt practices are guarded against.” All laws, rules and policies governing elections in Pakistan are required to be in line with the provisions of the Constitution. If there are any gaps in the laws, rules, procedures and operational matters, those should be plugged with relevant amendments. It is imperative also to refer to the Supreme Court of Pakistan judgment in Workers Party case (Constitutional petition No. 87/2011) wherein the court explained in detail the powers that the Commission enjoys under Article 218(3) of the Constitution.
Way back in 2009, the ECP decided to proactively approach the issues which it identified during the 2008 General Elections and formulated its first Five-Year Strategic Plan (2010-2014). The plan was a clear reflection of a major shift in the way the ECP used to work. It was a reform agenda with a clear vision, mission and guiding principles, and it set out 129 objectives grouped under 15 broader goals. Knowing well that the first plan will receive resistance as generally plans are prepared and forgotten, the ECP’s leadership took the matter very seriously and delivered various progress reports. The implementation was not easy, as not all the wings and units absorbed the principle of implementing the plan within their respective domains. Nevertheless, they continued to deliver and report activities related to certain targets. Led from the front by the Secretary ECP under guidance of the Election Commission, the plan became a reference point for the ECP in regard to improvements in various electoral areas.
After successful implementation of the first strategic plan the ECP decided to move forward to put together Second Five-Year Strategic Plan (2014-2018) to continue the reform process in a an effective manner and ultimately to strengthen the electoral processes in Pakistan. The need for reforms was also demonstrated during the post-election review process where all aspects were analyzed through a comprehensive methodology.
The ECP will utilize all its resources and build human and material capacity so that democracy is further strengthened through a more robust electoral reform process.
Like the First Five-Year Strategic Plan, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has been instrumental in providing the ECP the required technical assistance for the development of Second Five-Year Strategic Plan as well. It has been a very meaningful partnership where the ECP leveraged the wealth of technical depth that IFES offers. The UNDP and UNW have also contributed towards the development of the plan. The ECP appreciates the assistance provided by IFES, UNDP and UNW.
The ECP established a Strategic Planning Committee and its Core Group in order to draft the plan. All senior officers at the ECP Secretariat and the four Provincial Election Commissioners were part of the Committee headed by the Secretary ECP, and the Core Group was led by the Additional Secretary. After a thorough review, the Election Commission accorded approval of the plan.
The ECP is committed to implementing the strategic plan with more vigor and commitment in order to achieve the objectives it has set for itself while deriving strength from the success of the first five-year plan. Certainly, there will be challenges but these will only make the ECP stronger to pursue the ideal of a role model organization in the county.