The Political and Electoral Violence Education and Resolution (PEVER) project is one of the projects being implemented as part of the Democratic Governance Program, which monitors and studies political and electoral violence in 150 of the 272 National Assembly constituencies across Pakistan. The goals of the project are to enhance public awareness about the nature of, and reasons for, political and electoral violence, and to support the prevention and resolution of violent conflict.
The methodology and analysis for PEVER research is supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development, through a grant from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. FAFEN’s field monitoring presence is supported by The Asia Foundation.
PEVER defines political violence as “any act or threat of violence – be it physical or psychological, explicit or implicit – that is aimed at any person or property involved in the political process.” This includes violence that targets state institutions or infrastructure; violence motivated by ethnic, religious, tribal, ideological, or other identities; violence based on organizational or professional affiliation; and violence based on political party affiliation.
Owing to the stereotypical classification of political violence as violent conflict that takes place between political parties and ‘power-players’, questions may arise in the reader’s mind about how certain types of violence mentioned above are political in nature. It may initially confuse some, for example, that PEVER records violence between or within tribes as political violence.
The reason this violence is political is that in regions such as Sindh, Balochistan and FATA, the political systemis analogous to the tribal system. Similarly, ethnic violence is a representation of the dynamics between different groups in a community, and therefore a representation of the community’s politics. Violence perpetrated by or among influential groups such as gangs and mafias is recorded as political violence because such groups are largely interwoven into the political culture in Pakistan.
The key term for all incidents recorded by PEVER as political violence is that they are ‘politically motivated’. For example, PEVER records attacks on entertainment or recreation centers, such as video stores and gymnasiums, because they are a militant ideological and political statement.
PEVER defines electoral violence as “any act or threat of violence – be it psychological, explicit, or implicit – that is aimed at any person or property involved in the electoral process.” Electoral violence occurs not only on Election Day, but during the pre-election period, during campaigning and other electoral events, and during the post-election period, concluding with the winning candidate taking office.
FAFEN monitors political and electoral violence in three ways: 1) through 300 field monitors in 150 National Assembly constituencies across Pakistan; 2) by analyzing media reports; and 3) by fielding election observation teams. All monitored incidents are reported on standardized checklists and entered in the PEVER database.
Field monitoring is conducted by 300 field monitors in project constituencies. These field monitors are trained particularly in tracking and verifying incidents of political violence, which they then report to the FAFEN Secretariat. Field monitoring is conducted through direct observation, information from members of the community (including eyewitnesses and victims), information from members of FAFEN’s Constituency Relations Group (CRG), and information from political actors and state officials.
The collection of data by field monitors is particularly important to this project, as field monitors verify information with at least two separate sources, through interviews with victims, eyewitnesses, police or hospital officials, ormembers of the affected community. FAFENis not able to verify the accuracy of the media reports, but will be working in the future to verify a sample of reports from areas where FAFEN’s monitors are working.
Incidents of electoral violence reported by FAFEN’s election observation teams include those that have been directly observed by FAFEN or that have been reported to FAFEN by primary or secondary sources, and so are partially verified.
Media monitoring is conducted by researchers at the FAFEN Secretariat, who scan national and local newspapers daily for incidents of political and electoral violence occurring throughout Pakistan – in project constituencies and non-project constituencies. By-election monitoring by FAFEN covers National Assembly by-elections by deploying trained, neutral staff to observe all stages of polling – opening of polling stations, voting, and counting – and record their findings on standardized checklists. Pre-Election violencemonitoring, between the date of announcement of the by-election and Election Day, is conducted through field and media monitoring, as well as through interviews by PEVER researchers with candidates, party workers, law enforcement officials, media representatives and other constituents to gauge the level of implicit and explicit violence occurring therein.
FAFEN monitors post-election violence through the same method. Data on Provincial Assembly by-elections is collected through an analysis ofmedia reports.When Provincial Assembly by-elections are held in an area covered by field monitors, field monitors are also tasked to monitor incidents of electoral violence related to that election.
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