November 17th, 2020
Expressing dissatisfaction with the General Elections in Gilgit Baltistan, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said independent election observers, including HRCP’s own team of observers in four cases, were not allowed into polling stations in the city of Gilgit during the vote-counting process.
In a statement on November 16, HRCP chairperson Hina Jilani said the Gilgit Union of Journalists has made a similar claim of poll observers not being let in during the vote-counting process in the polling stations. Additionally, Jilani said the HRCP team was not allowed to enter a polling station in Sherqila, Ghizer-1 (GBA-19). In at least two cases, the HRCP team received reports that some voters had voted more than once at women’s polling stations in Ghanche and Diamer districts, she added.
Speaking to the HRCP team, Jilani said, some candidates claimed that certain members of the ruling party, including Ali Amin Gandapur, Murad Saeed, and Saifullah Niazi, had continued to electioneer in Gilgit-Baltistan in violation of the Elections Act 2017. “Another report claims that some candidates offered women’s organisations money to build their offices in lieu of support,” the HRCP said. Sadia Danish, a PPP candidate from constituency GBA-18, Diamer-4, allegedly received threats to her life as a result of which she was unable to enter her constituency to campaign, Jilani said.
Although the HRCP chief said, the polling process was largely peaceful and orderly, the shortage of polling staff meant that voting entailed long queues. Most polling stations were overcrowded and Covid-19-related SOPs were largely ignored by polling staff, polling agents and voters, she added. In more remote areas, polling was delayed by up to an hour, in part due to poor weather. HRCP was concerned to see that no special arrangements had been made to facilitate persons living with disabilities at polling stations.
A number of candidates, however, said they were pleased with the performance of the Election Commission, which had held an all-parties conference to evolve a code of conduct with consensus. The Election Commission reportedly issued over 300 notices to various political parties for violating the Elections Act 2017 but did not necessarily implement the provisions of the act despite such notices, the HRCP chairperson noted.
Alarmed that the closing of the polls yesterday was marred by large-scale aerial firing, the HRCP called on the federal government, the political opposition and the local administration to ensure that Gilgit remains peaceful amid reports of escalating tension over the results being announced.