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ISLAMABAD: Federal government has dismissed the concerns of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Elections (Amendment) Ordinance 2022 – with a crucial meeting between top officials from the two sides having remained inconclusive on Monday.

Secretary ECP Omar Hamid Khan, along with senior officers of the commission’s Law branch, met Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan to convey the electoral body’s concerns on the recently promulgated ordinance, it is learnt.

The commission has concerns that allowing the public office-holders (through this ordinance) to visit any area where an election is scheduled would compromise the fairness/transparency of the electoral proves, Business Recorder has learnt.

However, the AGP insisted that all the legal aspects were considered before the promulgation of the ordinance and it was well within the federal government’s authority to issue ordinances or legislate on the crucial electoral issues it deemed appropriate, according to officials.

Before this meeting, the ECP, Monday, held an internal meeting wherein it was decided to meet the AGP to convey concerns regarding the ordinance.

The electoral body is expected to meet again today (Tuesday) to map out future course of action.

It merits mention here that ECP has announced second phase of LG polls on the coming March 31 in the remaining 18 out of 35 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and first phase of LG polls in 17 out of 36 districts of Punjab on the coming May 29.

The commission’s electoral code of conduct strictly bars the public office-holders from visiting any area where an election is scheduled.

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

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

Exercising these powers, the commission on February 7, disqualified Umar Amin Gandapur, the brother of Federal Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Minister Ali Amin Gandapur and KP Local Government Minister Faisal Amin Gandapur, for code of conduct violation related to mayoral poll in Dera Ismail Khan. However, Islamabad High Court (IHC) reinstated Gandapur who was then elected DI Khan’s mayor in February 13 election.

In December last year, the electoral body slapped a fine of Rs 50,000 on Ali Gandapur for electoral code of conduct violation.

Also in December last year, the ECP wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan directing him not to pay a visit to Peshawar in view of the local government polls, warning that action would be initiated against the premier if he visited the KP provincial capital. However, the PM not only carried out this visit but also announced some development packages in Peshawar.

The electoral body allegedly hushed the matter under the carpet by not taking any action against the PM. The ECP had also fined Rs 50,000 each on Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah, Information Minister Sindh Saeed Ghani and other bigwigs for violation of KP LG polls code of conduct but later withdrew the imposition of fines on them.

“Notwithstanding anything to the contrary under this act, rule or code of conduct or any other law, a member of Parliament (Majlis-o-Shoora), provincial assembly or elected member of local government, including member holding any other office under the constitution or any other law – may visit or address public meetings in any area or constituency during election campaign,” reads the Elections (Amendment) Ordinance 2022.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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