ECP may deploy ‘officers from diverse departments’ to serve as DROs, ROs

Around 1,000 DROs and ROs would be involved in the nationwide election duty, official says

A woman casts her vote at a polling station during by-elections in Karachi on October 16, 2022. — PPI
A woman casts her vote at a polling station during by-elections in Karachi on October 16, 2022. — PPI
  • Officers may belong to judiciary, fed, provincial govts, ECP.
  • ECP in process of finalising lists of officers for poll job.
  • Close to 1,000 DROs and ROs would be involved in Feb 8 elections.

ISLAMABAD: As the country gears up for the February 8 general elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is mulling appointing “officers from diverse departments” — including the judiciary federal, provincial governments and its own officers — to serve as district returning officers (DROs) and returning officers (ROs), reported The News on Thursday.

The publication reported that no formal decision has been taken in this regard but it was highly likely that the ECP would use a mix of officers.

“The Election Commission is left with no option but to engage officers from diverse departments. Already, the provincial election commissioners are in the process of finalising lists of officers for the poll job, besides Central Secretariat,” a senior official of the ECP told The News.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, recalled that the judiciary had refused to spare officers for election duty for multiple reasons, among them was a load of pending cases. However, he added one of the smaller provincial high courts had expressed its willingness to deploy officers for the purpose.

To a question, he said around 1,000 DROs and ROs would be involved in the nationwide election duty.

“The Election Commission, already in the election mode, will make sure that officers of good repute are assigned the critical job to contribute to the objective of free, fair and transparent elections,” he maintained.

The National Judicial Policy Making Committee (NJPMC) in 2009 had decided to stop judicial officers’ appointment for election duties, as this had dragged the “judiciary into political controversies”.

Sections 50 and 51 of the Elections Act, 2017, empower the ECP to appoint DROs, ROs and assistant returning officers (AROs): “For election to an Assembly, the Commission shall, in the prescribed manner, appoint a District Returning Officer for each district or a specified area— (a) from amongst its own officers subject to availability; (b) by selection from a list of officers provided by the government or a provincial government; or (c) from the subordinate judiciary in consultation with the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court…”

Likewise, the commission shall, in the prescribed manner, appoint, from amongst its own officers or officers of any government or corporations, autonomous or semi-autonomous bodies controlled by any government, or from the subordinate judiciary in consultation with the chief justice of the concerned high court, a returning officer for each constituency. (2) A person shall not be appointed as a returning officer for more than one constituency, save in exceptional circumstances, for reasons to be recorded.

The commission may, Section 51 says, in the prescribed manner, appoint, from amongst its own officers or officers of any government, or corporations, autonomous or semi-autonomous bodies controlled by any government, as many assistant returning officers as may be necessary. 

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