News / Asia

EU Plays Down Absence of Pakistan Election Monitors in High-Risk Areas

Pakistani vendors fix posters of candidates taking part in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Lahore, Pakistan, April 5, 2013.
Pakistani vendors fix posters of candidates taking part in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Lahore, Pakistan, April 5, 2013.
Sharon Behn
The European Union is deploying monitors to observe the electoral process in Pakistan, for the country's May elections.  But none of those monitors will travel to the country's high-risk regions.
 
Michael Gahler, chief of the European Union's Election Observation Mission to Pakistan, admits that none of the 110 monitors they will have working in Pakistan during the May 11 national elections will be present in areas where there is a security threat.
 
But Gahler played down the impact the EU absence from those areas would have on the evaluation of the country's electoral process, saying local monitors would be present.
 
"The fact that many local observers will also be on the ground, I think, gives the confidence for voters in these areas that they can freely cast their vote," he said.  "That is my conviction."

Human-rights activist Tahira Abdullah says the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and other independent national observers such as the Free and Fair Election Network would be present in high-risk areas.
 
But she says the absence of the EU observation mission in those areas will be strongly felt.
 
"The European Union will have a grave hole in its own report," she said. "I would like to point out here that the areas they are not going to are the very same areas where women are being barred from voting"
 
According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, 10 to 15 million of the 85 million voters live in Pakistan's so-called sensitive areas, such as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas on the northwest border with Afghanistan, in the restive southern province of Baluchistan and in certain areas of the violent city of Karachi.
 
The country director for U.N. Women in Pakistan, Lena Lindberg, told VOA in some of the higher-risk areas extremists have threatened any woman who dares to cast a vote.  But she says for the first time, the Election Commission will segregate ballots by gender.

"And therefore, we will now be able to see exactly how many women voted, not only for the whole country, and the overall turnout, but also for every polling station," she said. "So from now on it will be possible in Pakistan to see if there are polling stations where there were nearly no women voters at all, maybe even zero women voters."

That will allow Pakistan to focus in on those areas in future elections.
 
In a recent interview with VOA, Election Commission of Pakistan Additional Secretary Afzal Khan said, given the security situation, it was better to have fewer observers in harm's way.  But, he also said it is crucial that voters accept the election results as free and fair.
 
"... as far as observation is concerned, this election commission, we need certification of the voters, if they are satisfied we are satisfied, if they are happy we are happy, we need the trust and certification of clean elections by the political parties, losers and the winners," he said.

According to Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, in addition to the European Union, the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute is organizing an international team of 57 short and long-term observers.  Several governments, including the United States, Japan and Turkey, are also expected to send in observers.

You May Like

Photogallery US to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Expanded Ebola Effort

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Obama is to announce troop deployment, other details of US plans to fight Ebola outbreak More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid