Pakistan poll panel lays out dos and don’ts for campaign

By Muhammad Najeeb, IANS

Islamabad : Political parties in Pakistan have been barred from talking about the military, judiciary and the country’s ideology during the upcoming poll campaign, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) draft code of conduct issued Thursday.

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ECP Secretary Dilshad Kanwar said the document had been sent to all the parties and they had been asked to suggest changes by Nov 3. After that, the ECP would draw up a new draft, incorporating the suggestions and inviting the parties for discussion.

He said general elections were due before Jan 15 and the entire world had their eyes on it.

Replying to a question about the Karachi bomb blasts, Kanwar said they would soon be inviting representatives of all political parties to discuss a strategy regarding security issues.

The seven-page document states that political parties and individual candidates would also not be allowed to target their opponents and rival parties beyond the limits given in the code of conduct.

The 39-point document covers the timelines for the campaign, spending and size of the pamphlets and brochures to be distributed among the voters. It also mentions a code of conduct during the campaign, voting day and announcement of results.

“The political parties shall not propagate any opinion, or act in any manner prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan, or the sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan, or morality, or the maintenance of public order, or the integrity or independence of the judiciary of Pakistan, or which defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary or the armed forces of Pakistan, as provided under Article 63 of the constitution,” it says.

Criticism of other political parties, when made, shall be confined to their policies and programme, past record and work.

For the first time, the ECP code specifies that political parties, contesting candidates and their workers shall not campaign against the participation of any person in the elections on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion or caste.

Party officials, candidates or others shall not encourage or enter into agreements debarring women from becoming candidates or exercising their right of vote in an election.

On election expenses, the code states that no contesting candidate or a political party shall cross the limit of Rs.1.5 million for the National Assembly seat and Rs.1 million for a provincial assembly seat.