Stop manipulating elections, ensure free and fair franchise, SAFMA demands


LAHORE: The South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) presented an amended draft resolution for discussion during a seminar on ‘Stop Manipulating Elections and Ensure Free and Fair Franchise’ and asked for proposed additions and amendments in writing on Sunday.

Secretary General SAFMA Imtiaz Alam chaired the general discussion which was addressed by SAP-Pakistan Executive Director Irfan Mufti, Advocate Salman Raja, Women’s Action Forum Lahore active member Rubina Saigol, PTI leader Hamid Khan and renowned rights activist and writer I.A. Rehman.

A number of journalists, activists and people from different walks of life were also present. On the occasion, one minute of silence was observed for the victims of Mastung blast.

During the seminar, a 12-point agenda was presented. The demands included immediate cessation of interference of non-elected state institutions, while the Election Commission Pakistan was also urged to ensure free and fair elections and preempt any kind of tampering in the voting process. Moreover, it was said that strict enforcement of the code of ethics for the candidates, political parties, state officials performing various election duties and the media must be ensured.

Participants demanded that NAB must refrain from ‘selective accountability’ to influence elections. The accountability must be systemic and across the board, it was said. Furthermore, it was demanded that the parties refrain from abusive exchanges, hate-speech and mudslinging, whereas banned outfits must immediately be barred from contesting elections and all sectarian and hateful campaigns be banned.

The seven demand was that no voter be denied his/her right to vote, rather, whoever tries to restrain any section of the electorate, be they women, minorities and displaced people or those affected by law and order disturbances, from former FATA and Baluchistan in particular, be restrained and punished and full protection be provided to those who are under pressure to vote or not. Buying and selling of votes must be strictly prohibited.

Further, the Election Commission of Pakistan must assert its authority and take all possible measures to ensure a free and fair election and an even playing field for all political parties. It must take measures to educate and facilitate voters to vote, including the provision of official transport to the voter. All curbs on rallies, public meeting, use of megaphones and the legitimate campaign must be lifted.

the 10th point of the demand was that all restrictions, visible or invisible, on mainstream media and social media must be lifted since a fair and free election is not possible without a free media and freedom of expression. The second last point of their demand was that independent election observers, including local and international, be fully facilitated to monitor the fairness of elections. The last demand was all state institutions and officials in the service of Pakistan must keep their oath and subservience to the constitution since its violation during the election damages the credibility and sanctity of the institutions and they must submit to the authority of the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Moreover, interference of various security and law-enforcement agencies in the electoral process across the country, in general, and in the areas affected by terrorism and insurgencies, in particular, was also talked about. Recent series of terrorist attacks in KP and Balochistan remind the blanket blockade of the democratic parties in the last elections, it was said.

SAFMA also called upon the democratic forces and the people of Pakistan to foul all attempts at the rigging of election along with the electorates to oppose and vote against the candidate. They have appealed to the electorates to vote for those parties and candidates who are committed to their eight points like the sovereignty of people, promote equality, promote peace within, support the rights of working classes.