Women Presiding Officers Prepare for the General Elections


Riffat Rehmani, presiding officer for the general elections, takes part in training of polling staff for presiding and assistant presiding officers. Photo: UNDP Pakistan/Torsum Khan

"These elections are crucial for Pakistan's democracy. We will perform our duties honestly and with utmost determination. I hope the caretaker government supports us on 11 May and ensures the security of the polling staff," said Riffat Rehmani.

Riffat Rehmani, 40, will be taking part in Pakistan's general elections as a presiding officer on 11 May. This is the first time that Riffat will be actively involved in the electoral process. She has been associated with academia for almost 16 years. Beginning her career as a school teacher, her professionalism and vast teaching experience led her to become the principal of Government Girls College in Islamabad. She said, "My students are like my children, she said. I feel their teachers play a signicant role in their upbringing especially students who are in their teens. They need continuous support and guidance from their teachers."

Highlights

  • More than 330,000 polling staff trained in Punjab.
  • More than 17,000 police officials trained in election security.
  • Around 40 million people reached through a voter education campaign via the media, social media and civil society organizations.
  • Elections results database created containing results from polling stations.
  • Currently UNDP is assisting ECP to conduct lessons-learning from the May elections.

In the training of polling staff for presiding and assistant presiding officers, Riffat has learnt the duties of working as a first time presiding officer at a polling station in Islamabad. The presiding officer is the person in charge of a polling station. The training, organized by the Election Commission of Pakistan and assisted by UNDP, will train more than 40,000 presiding officers for general elections. During training the participants are given handbooks and manuals highlighting key information and guidelines for polling staff. This has further enabled Riffat to learn about her new role in the electoral process as she will be actively involved before, during and after the elections day.

Riffat's job will entail visiting her designated polling station prior to election day and making sure she obtains the necessary election information from the returning officer. This also includes checking arrangements for polling and security of election material. She has to ensure that verified electoral rolls displaying voters' pictures are used at the polling station.

On polling day, Riffat will place numbered seals on the ballot boxes and ensure their safety during polling. She will also monitor the work of assistant presiding officers and polling officers. After the votes have been cast, she will open the ballot boxes in front of the party agents and observers present and conduct the vote counting process. She will then fill the statement of count forms and seal them in the Tamper Evident Bags. During this process, she will display the results outside the polling station before handing the material back to the returning officer. In case of any emergency regarding administrative or security requirements, Riffat will also have the authority to exercise powers equivalent to a first class magistrate.

Riffat is looking forward to election day. She said, "Being a presiding officer for the first time, it will be challenging and exciting. I have to make sure all arrangements are intact a day before polls. The training and manuals have been exceptionally useful. Now, we know what to expect on polling day."

UNDP is assisting the Election Commission of Pakistan to train its polling officials in an effort to ensure the credibility of the polling process and increase public confidence for the May 11 general elections. More than 600,000 presiding officers, assistant presiding officers and polling officers are being trained who will be engaged throughout the country on election day.

UNDP is providing assistance to the election commission in areas including training of polling staff and security personnel, results management and voter education through a three-year electoral cycle support project supported by the Governments of Australia, Norway, Japan, United States, Switzerland and the European Union. With the support of UNDP, ECP has launched a voter-education campaign targeted at inclusion of youth and women, as well as a new elections results management system for upcoming national and provincial elections.