ISLAMABAD: The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN)’s District Long-Term Observers (DLTOs) observed security and public accessibility to District Election Commissioner (DEC) offices in 47 districts between March 11 and 20, 2013. FAFEN observers identified potential public accessibility problems in eight of the 47 observed DEC offices and a need for enhanced security measures in 29 offices, says a press release issued by FAFEN on Monday.
The data has been compiled based on DLTO reports from 23 districts in Punjab, 13 in Sindh, five in Balochistan, four in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and two agencies in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Out of 47 observed DEC offices, 39 (83%) were located in public places with no security barricades. The remaining eight offices (11%), however, were not easily accessible due to the presence of security barricades and/or distant locations.
FAFEN observers reported six DEC offices being located beyond police barricades, making public access difficult. These offices were located in Khairpur, Malir and Karachi West (Sindh); Kasur (Punjab); Panjgur and Lasbela (Balochistan); and Orakzai Agency and South Waziristan Agency in tribal areas. FAFEN DLTOs had earlier recorded similar observations regarding the DEC offices in Kasur, Malir, Karachi West, South Waziristan Agency and Lasbela, suggesting that no action has been taken by the Election Commission of Pakistan to have these barricades removed. However, the DLTO in Karachi South, who had earlier reported that the DEC office in the district was located beyond police barricades, observed during the current reporting period that the barricades had been removed.
In Malir, people had to pass through an additional barricade put up by Rangers/Frontier Constabulary/Paramilitary Forces to reach the DEC office, while the office in Khairpur was found to be located beyond additional barricades put up by the army and/or unidentified people (persons not wearing identifiable uniforms), making accessibility difficult for visitors. In addition, the DLTOs in Panjgur and Orakzai Agency reported that the DEC offices were located beyond barricades put up by Rangers/FC/Paramilitary Forces.
Out of the 47 observed DEC offices, 29 (62%) had no official security guards. Most of these offices (16) were located in Punjab, followed by eight in Sindh, three in KP and two in Balochistan.
The absence of guards could cause security problems or dissuade citizens from visiting the DEC offices. In addition, it could also prompt unauthorized people (people not wearing identifiable uniforms) to establish security barriers outside the DEC offices to restrict access to the people.
FAFEN recommends that ECP coordinate with the local administration to have the security barricades established by unidentified groups or individuals removed and ensure that all DEC offices have official security guards and appropriate level of security measures to enable public accessibility while ensuring safety.