It was on March 16, 2013 when National Assembly of Pakistan dissolved accomplishing its five years term. This happened first time in the history of Pakistan that National Assembly & Provincial Assemblies completed constitutional duration without military interference. Then the nation geared up for general elections in May, 2013. Pakistan election results were supposed to be credible and fair. It is evident that one of the essentials for making electoral process genuine and credible is the opportunity to get resolution for the disputes and complaints pertaining to the electoral process. This opportunity is equally significant for both citizens as well as contestant political profiles. The transparency, legitimization, and fairness heavily depend upon the country’s sound Election Dispute Resolution mechanisms (EDR). Unfortunately, Pakistan’s legal framework is not strong enough to provide adequate EDR processes consistent with international commitments. Though several efforts were made recently involving certain amendments in electoral legislations in order to review and eradicate the weaknesses in the EDR systems, yet the changing couldn’t make much difference in the electoral politics in Pakistan.
This discrepancy or the absence of effective system for electoral dispute resolution exposes the electoral process with a fundamental challenge. It consequently can lead to invalid election results and puts the political stability at risk. Moreover, an effective system is vital to bring Pakistan up to international conventions. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which establishes basic rights i.e. right to vote or to be elected at fair periodic election feels necessity for Pakistan to stand as State Party via covenant to ensure powerful counter step for violation of these rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art. 85); ICCPR (Art. 2 & Art. 25), and the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD, Art. 5.6) also enshrine the right to a sound remedy for the breach of rights.
Currently, the dispute resolution system of Pakistan is grounded partially in legislation and partially in informal practices formulated by Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The formal dispute resolution processes are derived from Constitution and the Representation of the People Act (ROPA), 1976. In order to fill up the gaps in this system and eradicate the ambiguities of the process, the EDR framework is strongly required to be built purely upon law or Parliament act. This framework should have distinctive demarcations concerning authority levels and jurisdictions between political profiles and courts. Moreover, the whole process should be cost effective, easy-to-follow and accessible to electoral parties and other individuals as well. By the same token, it is vital that the EDR procedures for transparent and prompt dispositions of the pre-polling & polling day’s complaints should involve predetermined regulations. Though the ECP has worked out to develop certain strategies to improve the dispute resolution procedures yet a constant review and update in the existing framework is required for fair remedy consistent to the international conventions.
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