Local and international communities heavily criticized the results of the 2002 general election of Pakistan and organizations as not only rigged, but also, unduly influenced by the military’s stronghold on public infrastructure and government. The Electoral Commission of Pakistan, as well as other watchdog not-for-profit and international organizations, usually conducts short-term, episodic studies of electoral fairness on the actual voting days. There is little official information available on whether the processes and policies that apply to the events and time around the actual voting day contribute to the legitimacy of the result. The year prior to the 2008 elections, and the introduction of computerized electoral calls, this project focused on exploring problems that could tamper the fairness of the results, well before the actual election date. Some problems with the new electoral calls system addressed by this group include: the inexplicable huge drop in the number of voters; the lack of use of NADRA database for preparing computerised electoral rolls; the ECP's insistence upon not sharing draft electoral rolls with political parties or to provide those online at its website citing “legal” restrictions; the ECP's disagreement with the demand to extend the display period from notified 21 days and the cumbersome and complicated process of registration of new voters or the correction/objection process to those already registered, etc (CGEP Position Paper on Fresh Electoral calls, 2007).
The Citizens’ Group on Electoral Process (CGEP) was formed by the Pakistani Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) in 2006. Its labours are directed towards the vision of free, fair and credible elections in Pakistan, as well as instituting electoral reform. Traditionally, Pakistani elections are monitored by regional and international observation teams, which arrive at the sites only a few days before or the day of the elections and then leave. CGEP’s work begins a year prior to the election date, with a more long-term focus. From providing second opinions on existing policy, to drafting critical commentaries on the procedures of the Electoral Commission of Pakistan, to engaging political parties and civil society in dialogue to address complaints on rigging, the CGEP functions as a community of experts, a watchdog and representatives of civil society. CGEP works to demand political parties respect public mandate, non-interference in formation of new governments by the presidency, by local and foreign elements, restoration of judiciary and institute independent judicial enquiry into incidents of poll-day rigging.
Originating Entities and Funding
PILDAT is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit think-tank focused on building legislative capacities and conducting research on public policy with the mission of strengthening democracy and democratic institutions in Pakistan. Its efforts are mostly dedicating to instituting a monitoring framework for elected representative and legislatures and facilitating participation of different levels of society in the democratic process. CGEP also partners with the Asia Foundation to fund and publish some of its research projects and reports. Among its list of Programmes includes a Political Research Programme, public legislative forums, legislative strengthening Forums, Policy Dialogue Programme, Democracy Watch Programme and the Youth Leadership Development Programme. PILDAT also assists the National Assembly of Pakistan with their background reports and research work to scr The following is a suggested structure. We recommend users follow these headings to make it easier to compare and analyze entries.
The Group is composed of 25 non-partisan, influential experts chosen by PILDAT with strong work experience and connections to the judiciary, the academy, law, media and civil society who meet on a monthly basis. Members include former Chief Justice Supreme Court of Pakistan, Justice (Retd.) Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui, Former Federal Minister, Omar Khan Afridi and President of PILDAT, Ahmed Bilal Mehboob. There is little information available on the website as to whether there is a criteria of eligibility through which new members are selected and whether members are appointed by the leader of the group or by deliberation and voting between members of the group. Most members choose to participate to offer their particular knowledge, social resources and expertise from past work experiences to the collaborative effort of formulating research-based critiques and proposals for electoral reforms.
The method is simple non-hierarchical roundtable style meetings between the participants which are facilitated by the PILDAT president.
Style of Deliberations and Decision Making
The group meets monthly, in the year before general elections, and annually in other years. The meetings are structured like a conference between industry professionals in which individuals share and discuss their research, offer policy recommendations and concerns on electoral reform. The meetings end with instructions and content for a position paper, research report or press release that is sent to government officials, media, civil society and academics. The group relies on mostly media reports on the current politics to inform their decision-making. There is little information on whether the structure of the meetings assures equal participation from both male and female voices, and from all members regardless of professional status. However, after pooling their research, the members work together to identify problems and potential solutions or policy recommendations. The meetings end with instructions, drafts and lists to be published on their website and distributed. It is unclear whether PILDAT workers author the research reports and position papers, or if some papers are authored by the participants themselves. Some participants take the results directly to meetings with members of Parliament and distribute in their own social channels. This model aims to mobilize the social network and capitals of the elites as a critical force on parliament, with many participants well-connected to those in Government. A brief summary of the meeting agendas is also posted on the website to illustrate how the conversations develop into a research report. In some meetings, the group invited regional experts such as Mr.Kingsely Rodrigo from Sri Lanka’s Centre for Policy Alternatives and a teleconference with former Indian Election Commissioner for consultation. The group also meets regularly with political party leaders to discuss electoral reform, based on its deliberations.
Influence and Outcomes
A central outcome of the group’s deliberations is the Proposed Electoral Reforms position paper published in 2007 which offers a comprehensive list of demands and implementations for the Electoral Commission of Pakistan to help institute electoral reform for fairer, more accountable elections. This paper played had a huge influence in shaping the critical engagement and discussion on the fairness of the 2008 general elections. This is because their work equipped the public, political leaders and watchdogs with research-based data on the state of the electoral system way before the actual election date.
CGEP has produced consistent research reports and position papers on electoral reform from 2006-2013. The Groups’s efforts were particularly influential and fruitful in the elections of 2008 where it worked to lobby for a non-partisan president, an independent inquiry commission for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, an appointment of a new CEC and reconstitution of full ECP, effective use of powers by the ECP, restraint by the political parties, responsibility by the Media, and peaceful conduct by all Citizens before, during and after elections. CGEP has yet to update with new reports since March 2013.
Analysis and Criticism
Most of GGEP’s research and advocacy work is contained within interactions with government, civil society and media through meetings, reports and petitions. The group’s power comes from their previous or current professional positions as experts within different communities. Though the individuals come from different professional backgrounds, they are not representatives of civil society, merely experts with specific knowledge on electoral reform. All members have an interest of mobilizing their social influence and network to pressure the ECP and government to institute electoral reforms for fairer and more accountable elections in Pakistan and to strengthen democracy. The group, however, is not a vessel of representation of different levels of society, the people or even different regions. Rather, it is a community of experts who mobilize around elections and use their knowledge and social capital to develop timely critiques and suggestions on the implementation of electoral procedurals.
The Group also played an important role in the Electoral and Parliamentary Reform Process and Civil Society in Pakistan project funded by the UNDEF for a period of 24 months. The project began in October 2009 and ended in September 2011, with a total funding allocation of US$250,000. The project focused on capacity-building of parliamentarians, civil society organizations and media as democratic agents and using the CGEP to highlight the significance of accurate electoral rolls and persuading decision makers to implement electoral and legislative reforms. Most of the proposals by CGEP during this project were incorporated in the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, and the ECP in collaboration with the National Database Registration Authority created an up-to-date electoral rolls, as well as a 5 year Strategic Plan for 2010-2014 to prepare the country for the 2013 general election. Some of the proposals by CGEP accepted by ECP include incorporating pictures of voters on electoral rolls, and use of computerized National Identity Cards as a requirement.