ISLAMABAD: There are 15 important points that voters will have to keep in their mind while casting their vote today (Wednesday) in one of the most crucial elections of the national history.
For the second time in whole electoral history of Pakistan under present system of voting, elections are being held in summer. Casting the vote as early in the morning as possible along with all the family members will be the best option. All the voters must be mentally ready to face tough weather conditions and even rain in some cities though there is no rain forecast so far.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has already explained the voting pattern through print and electronic media to the voters and political parties’ workers will also be there to guide them about the procedure of voting. However, voters should keep following 15 points in their mind so that along with voting for their choice candidate, they can play their role towards ensuring a transparent election process;
(1) All voters can check the location of their polling station by sending their CNIC number through an SMS to 8300. Upon reaching the polling station, the voters will maintain discipline and will make queues. At the time of entering the polling station, they can be checked for security reasons and can be asked whether they are carrying their original CNIC or not. However, no process of verification can be done at the entry point of the polling stations by anyone. If someone tries to check their CNIC number and starts matching it with some polling list i.e. start complete verification process, the voters must resist this and complaint. This pattern is used to delay voting process as complete verification is part of process of casting a vote and can only be done inside the polling station. In case, someone is trying to find out the CNIC numbers of the voters form some polling list at the entry point of polling stations, this is verification process and can’t be done at the entry point and voters shouldn’t allow it. The voters should ask the concerned persons doing this illegal act to stop it and if it is not stopped the voters should immediately try to contact media persons present there and report to the concerned ECP officials and the office of the Returning Officer (RO).
(2) Election is a hectic exercise and a huge operation will be underway across the country from 8:00am to 6:00pm. Voters must keep calm and address others, especially those on election duty with utmost respect. However, all Pakistanis are respectable and no one can misbehave with them in any way at any stage during the voting procedure. If anyone at the entry point or inside the polling station misbehaves with any voter, same should be taken seriously and should be reported to concerned senior polling staff, media, political parties’ office bearers and all concerned. If anyone at the entry point misbehaves or addresses voters in a threatening or insulting way, the same attitude should be immediately reported after giving warning.
(3) No one, neither activists of any political party nor anyone on election related duty can ask the voters to vote for some specific candidate. Mostly voters are aware of this, but in some cases, the elderly or simple people in some areas may not be aware that asking them by the officials on duty to vote for some specific candidate or party on the polling day is a crime. Activists of political parties can create this awareness among all voters and can ask them to immediately inform about such an incident. If any voter faces such a situation, same must be reported to polling staff, concerned ECP officials and media without any delay.
(4) While in the polling room and after obtaining the ballot papers and stamp, the voter will proceed to a voting booth where privacy of the voter will be ensured. No one from the polling staff, polling agents and even the security personnel can go even near that booth. If during casting of the vote, any voter feels that anyone is coming close to that booth or trying to watch him/her, he/she must immediately protest, complain to the presiding officer and instantly file a complaint to the concerned RO and ECP authorities and inform media.
(5) If any voter feels or notes that the said voting booth where his/her privacy must be ensured is being monitored through any kind of cameras already installed, he/she must immediately inform all concerned including media about the situation.
(6) Except in Islamabad, all voters will be given two ballot papers and they have to stamp on the election symbol of their choice candidate in a way that the stamp sign completely remains in the box containing the said election symbol. The stamp sign must not go outside the box containing the election symbol of the choice candidate of the voter. The ballot paper is rejected if it is stamped twice or some other sign is placed on the ballot paper or any word is written on it. Political parties’ activists and workers guiding voters towards the polling station must guide voters on this count.
(7) The ECP has banned all the voters and polling agents from keeping their cellphones with them during the polling process but cell phones can be needed in case of any unexpected situation especially to file a complaint against any irregularity. So voters can also plan the voting in a way that some family members or friends can wait outside the polling station while others vote and then vice versa.
(8) All voters must resist any attempt by anyone on the entry points of the polling stations to delay the polling process by adopting any strategy. In such a situation, voters should inform media, RO and concerned ECP officials.
(9) Voters should be aware of the fact that at times, some untoward incidents like exchange of harsh words etc. took place at polling stations which can stop the polling process for a while. Often the objective of creating such a situation is to delay the voting process so that the voters who haven’t casted their votes and waiting in queues may leave premises and go back to their homes considering the voting process has been stopped or the situation may become uglier. Mostly, this technique is mostly used on the polling station in the areas where vote bank of some unwanted political party is strong. By stopping the voting process for some time by using this technique, the troublemakers basically ensure that the number of votes of that specific candidate can be minimised. In such a situation voters waiting in queues should try their best to wait at some safe place and inform media and police. Voters should not leave the place without voting and should wait for the voting process to resume in such a situation.
(10) If voters observe any suspicious activity by anyone, either by the workers of any political party or the polling staff or the security staff, they must try to make an evidence of such a happening. In absence of the mobile phone, it would be difficult to make the evidence but before complaining about such suspicious or illegal activity to the concerned authorities or informing media, the voters should try their best to make evidence from some location where mobile phones can be taken.
(11) Voters must cooperate with security officials in all regards so there cannot be any security breach and voting process can be completed peacefully. In a situation when because of any incident, there is rush of people in the polling room, the voters should be extra cautious and vigilant about any suspicious activity there.
(12) Voter should inform the media persons and observers present at the polling stations about their experience of voting. In case of observing anything unusual or fishy, they must highlight it through media.
(13) Ideally, if a voter obtains some ‘parchi’ from the camp of some political party about details of his/her vote, the same must not be carrying name or symbol of any political party. However, they cannot be stopped from entering in the polling station merely because they are holding this piece of paper in their pocket. If they are stopped they must inform the media and report to the RO office immediately.
(14) The voters must immediately inform media, RO office and concerned ECP officials in case the polling staff hasn’t reached in time or the polling process hasn’t started in time. This can be a delaying tactic at some polling stations.
(15) Towards the closing time of voting, all the votes present at the entry point of a polling station are allowed to enter the polling station. In case, any voter(s) is not allowed, he/she must try to convince the staff deputed there and in case of their refusal, they must immediately inform all concerned officials and media.