Syed Farooq Mohyud-din |
As the Senior Assistant Presiding officer in NA 125 Lahore, I bring forth the affairs of Election Day on 25th July 2018 and what exactly went wrong.
Day of Reckoning Starts
The mess on the part of ECP had already started on the 24th of July 2018, in civil court Lahore. The inefficiency of the election commission was clear as daylight when the presiding officers, along with their staff, faced extreme hardships in the mere task of transporting election material to their respective polling stations.
It took us six hours just to obtain the said material because of long queues and another six hours to wait for the arrival of ECP transport vehicles. As per the given rules, these materials had to be transferred on the hired vehicles. So, after a long overbearing wait in the suffocating hot weather, we finally reached our polling stations at 7 pm and started to prepare for the next day.
The plight of election staff was not discussed in the national media and till date, they stand as unsung heroes. The election commission was not perfect, however, the same can be said about every institution of Pakistan.
The Worst was yet to Come
On the 25th of July, voting commenced and the affairs of the day progressed fairly well. We were all quite relieved to reach the end of polling time without any disasters. It is important to tell that the election commission forbade the disclosure of the result, that is, until transmitted by the ECP RTS (Result transmission system). Even the much-chattered form 45 was to be given once the result was transmitted.
The ECP RTS application was configured in such a way that it could only transmit data from the location of the polling station. We worked diligently to compile results after counting the votes thrice to the full satisfaction of the polling agents (only 2 were present: one of PTI and one of PMLN). It seemed as if other parties were already aware of the result and did not find it important to send their polling agents.
RTS System Crashes
It was around 10:30 pm when the real struggle started; as we signed in, the application crashed and failed to take pictures of Form 45. And this happened nearly ten times. We were in contact with the RO and despite their directions and our communication with NADRA, RTS continued to deceive us.
The inefficiency of the election commission was clear as daylight when the presiding officers, along with their staff, faced extreme hardships in the mere task of transporting election material to their respective polling stations.
For my part, I was also called in the women election booth for assistance, the female staff was panicking not knowing the problem. The system was crashing as usual. The Election commission replied by asking us to simply wait until the system is restored because the application could not enter data beyond our polling station. We waited till 11:30 pm to be informed that the application had crashed all over the country and the only way around it is to wait for transport provided by the election commission to physically carry the result to the RO.
After that, we handed over form 45 to both the polling agents and completed the formal procedure, including getting their signatures. The polling agents were satisfied. It had started to rain while we were waiting for the transport, which arrived at 01:00 am. I personally sat in the overcrowded bus, along with the presiding officer and army officials.
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Turmoil at the Civil Court
Our spirits touched a new low as we watched thousands stranded in civil court. It looked impossible to submit the result and material. As per our national ethics, no one was ready to form any queue and it was jam-packed with mud all over the place, because of the rain. Everybody wanted a magical hand to just collect their bags and votes, to be able to return home.
The females were also suffering along with us. As the election commission had not expected their system to fail, they were not at all prepared. It was not until 07:00 am, the following morning, that our turn came with more people standing behind us. I, for my part, reached back at 09:00 am.
The system was crashing as usual. The Election commission replied by asking us to simply wait until the system is restored because the application could not enter data beyond our polling station.
Light at the end of Tunnel
As per my experience, it would be unfair to say that the results were manipulated. Yes, there were delays and the mismanagement was absolutely evident. But rigging it was impossible, especially with CCTV cameras installed in the rooms. I am quite sure that the election commission has all the videotapes. Transparency of elections cannot be taken away by crashed systems. I talked to multiple presiding officers and they told me that form 45 had been provided to polling agents while everything went smoothly until the system crashed.
Defying all the dangers of militant attacks, the voters came in huge numbers. The transition of civilian government, amid rumors, is a big leap forward from the turbulent democratic history of Pakistan. The plight of election staff was not discussed in the national media and till date, they stand as unsung heroes. The election commission was not perfect, however, the same can be said about every institution of Pakistan.
Syed Farooq Mohyud-din is a motivational speaker and an IT professional based in Lahore. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.