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ISLAMABAD: Sindh Information Minister Saeed Ghani Thursday said that Prime Minister Imran Khan committed “much greater a crime,” in comparison with what he did, by violating the directions of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and visiting Peshawar.

“He (premier) violated code of conduct for local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and visited Peshawar despite been asked by the ECP to avoid this visit. This is much greater a crime in comparison with what I have done,” he said, speaking to journalists outside ECP on Thursday, after his case hearing.

Earlier, a two-member ECP bench comprising of Nisar Ahmed Durrani and Shah Muhammad Jatoi heard the case related to imposition of fine on Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah, Sindh information minister and other PPP leaders.

Ghani appeared before the bench. During proceedings, the minister said that he learnt from media reports that he was imposed a fine of 50,000 rupees. He said PPP leader Nisar Khuhro is neither a legislator nor does he hold any public office but he was imposed Rs 50,000 fine.

As per the electoral code of conduct, fine is imposed for launching development packages in any area where election schedule is announced while the PPP leaders participated in Peshawar rally in connection with party’s Foundation Day anniversary on November 30, he added.

Ghani said he is willing to pay the fine if so directed by the ECP, adding that imposition of fine “without being heard is not right.”

Jatoi, ECP Member Sindh, told the defendant that he should file an appeal against the imposition of fine.

A counsel for other PPP leaders said that district monitoring officer (DMO) concerned not only imposed fine on PPP leaders but also referred this case to the ECP headquarters. He urged the bench to withdraw the notice. The bench reserved its verdict in the case.

On December 10, the DMOs concerned announced to have imposed fines of Rs 50,000 each on PPP chief, CM Sindh, Federal Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Minister Ali Amin Gandapur, Sindh information minister, KP Transport Minister Shah Muhammad Khan and others— for electoral code of conduct violation ahead of KP LG polls.

However, the ECP, so far, has failed to take any action against the PM for Peshawar visit. The electoral body has not shared its official version on the matter.

In a letter directly addressed to the PM, issued December 8, by DMO Peshawar Saeed Ahmed Khan, the latter referred to a media report suggesting that the PM was expected to visit Peshawar on Wednesday to launch Pakistan Card Initiative. The DMO reminded the premier of ECP’s notification from November 4 that barred all executive authorities and other public office holders from visiting any area where LG elections were taking place and announcing any development scheme, after the issuance of elections schedule.

“In view of the above, you are advised not to violate any provision of the code of conduct and instructions issued by the election commission, otherwise, legal proceedings under Section 233 and 234 of Elections Act 2017 shall be initiated against you,” the letter reads.

The ECP can impose a maximum fine of Rs 50,000 on anyone found guilty of violating the electoral code of conduct, in exercise of its powers under Section 234 (3) of Elections Act 2017.

The ECP has the powers to disqualify any candidate from contesting LG polls if he/she is found violating electoral code of conduct more than once, under Section 234 (4) of Elections Act 2017.

Meanwhile, the ECP bench issued notice to Convenor Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui in intraparty elections case and adjourned the case proceedings till January 19.

Speaking to media after the case hearing, former MQM-P leader Farooq Sattar said he was not “dying to join MQM-P.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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