ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry Saturday said that Free and Fair Election Network former chief have held an anti-government press conference where he has leveled serious accusation regarding funding and working.
In a Tweet, the minister said that he had advised Economic Affairs Division and FIA to probe the charges and let the law take its course.
Fafen, meanwhile, welcoming any scrutiny, inquiry and audit, rejected, what it called, the malicious smear campaign and baseless allegations by one of its former members, who was expelled from the network for misconduct a few days ago, said a press statement issued by the Fafen executive council here on Saturday. The statement said that the allegations and insinuations raised by Sarwar Bari, National Coordinator of Pattan Development Organisation for almost three decades, at the press conference in Islamabad as mala fide that are only meant to damage the integrity, credibility and unity of Pakistan’s largest non-partisan network of civil society organisations.
“Bari’s accusations followed his and his organisation’s termination from the basic membership of Fafen a few days ago after he failed to provide any evidence to substantiate similar claims and his campaign against the network that he has been running since October 2021. His termination was approved by consensus by the 20-member National Council of Fafen according to its established rules and procedures. Bari no longer represents Fafen and its positions and neither should he use the name of the network for his social and media legitimacy, the statement said.
Fafen, which receives administrative, financial and technical support from the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA), has always upheld transparency in its working and is open for any type of scrutiny, inquiry and audit of its data, reports, finances and decision-making. It also notes with concern that Bari’s effort ahead of general election 2023 may just be an effort to damage Pakistan’s most credible, evidence-based voice on elections on the basis of flimsy, frivolous, baseless and nonsensical notions, which cannot stand in any court of law. Fafen will use all legal options to safeguard the network from such malicious attacks, the statement concluded. Earlier, Fafen former secretary-general Sarwar Bari questioned Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA) for spending funds on ECP employees and their families, adding the TDEA without approval of the board had spent funds on traveling and accommodation of ECP employees and family members.
Bari said as a result of investigation into the 2013 elections, it had come to the Fafen’s notice that the TDEA committed forgery in the forms of a number of constituencies.
He claimed that the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) would help ensure transparency in the polls to great extent and end the involvement of Polling Officers (POs) by 99 per cent.
“About 99 percent involvement of POs in the election process after the introduction of EVMs will come to an end and the chances of rigging will be eliminated to great extent as compared to the old election process,” he said while talking to a private television channel.
He said the EVMs would minimise the role of humans in the election process as now “it will be done through the machines.” He said the use of EVMs was a part of the strategic plan 2019-23 of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) but no development had been made in that regard.
He said it was a commitment of the ECP to use EVMs, start a biometric system and give the right of vote to overseas Pakistanis through internet-voting.
“As per the plan, it was agreed by the ECP that EVMs will be utilised again and again as a pilot project but it was unfortunate that the exercise was the ECP done it once only,” he regretted.
Now, he said a bill related to the use of EVMs had also been passed by the Parliament and this technology would be used in the upcoming general elections.
“This is the matter of rule of law, so I fully support it.” Sarwar Bari said free elections meant that every registered voter of the country must be allowed to choose their candidates and exercise voting rights with his/her free will in a conducive atmosphere. He recalled that after the 2013 elections, protests were started in the country as the form 14 was not given to contesting candidates after the vote-count ended at polling stations. He said he had witnessed some forms 14 in which counting were mentioned wrong and the number of votes was written on blank papers. He said without intimating, the ECP had changed the numbers of polling stations and in some cases polling booth were merged.