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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has barred political parties, candidates and their agents for local government elections in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa from “insulting” the electoral body and warned to initiate action against the violators of this directive.

“Political parties, candidates and election agents—would follow all the orders, directives - issued from time to time— and code of conduct—and would avoid insulting the commission in any form,” reads the third point of a lengthy code of conduct issued by the electoral body for upcoming LG elections in the KP, on Friday.

The commission warned to initiate action under Section 10 of Elections Act 2017 against anyone found involved in “insulting” it.

This section reads, “Power to punish for contempt —The commission may exercise the same power as the high court to punish any person for contempt of court and the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003 – or any other law pertaining to contempt of court shall have effect accordingly as if reference therein to a ?court and to a ?judge were a reference, respectively, to the ?commission and the ?commissioner or, as the case may be, a member of the commission.”

The commission has issued this directive at a time when it is faced with strong criticism from top government functionaries, including Prime Minister Imran Khan and his key cabinet members, for its alleged failure to bring transparency in the electoral process.

Presently, the electoral body is hearing contempt cases against Railways Minister Azam Swati and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry who lambasted the electoral body, last month, for its opposition to Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

The federal government claims that the EVMs would purge the electoral process from foul play.

Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz and PM’s Parliamentary Affairs Advisor Babar Awan have also strongly criticised the ECP but the commission has initiated proceedings against Swati and Chaudhry only for “use of unparliamentary, derogatory, intemperate language, baseless allegations and contemptuous remarks…”

On August 20, this year, three days after the ECP expressed its concerns regarding EVMs during a demonstration given by Faraz, PM Khan “emphasised on responding to unwarranted criticism against EVMs with facts.”

He shared these views, while presiding over a high-level meeting on EVMs. Prior to that, in his hard-hitting address to the nation after Senate polls held on March 3, this year, the PM lashed out at the ECP in the backdrop of alleged foul play on Senate’s general seat from Islamabad in March 3 elections.

The prime minister questioned the ECP why it had not printed barcode on ballot papers to ensure fair polls.

“You (ECP) have harmed the morality of country…this country was to become an example for others. What message you (ECP) have given to our youth that how much money was used in the election and how our politics has been corrupted,” he remarked.

He said the ECP could have conducted fair elections as it had all the required resources to do so.

Meanwhile, the ECP code of conduct for LG elections in KP prohibits anyone from coercing or forcing any candidate to; withdraw or not to withdraw his/her candidature; not to cast vote; or not to be involved in election activities. It also bars transfers and postings in relevant government departments and bars relevant government officials from visiting or announcing any development scheme in the 17 districts where LG elections are scheduled for village/neighbourhood and tehsil/city councils on the coming December 19 (first phase) and January 16 (second phase).

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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