Supreme Court asks ECP for audit of political party accounts

Published: April 17, 2012

Supreme Court asks ECP to initiate inquiry against the practice of buying elections by wealthy candidates. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: While expressing concern over the inaction of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the commission to approach Accountant General of Pakistan (AGP) for an audit of political parties’ accounts and to initiate an inquiry against the practice of ‘buying elections’ by wealthy candidates.

A three-member bench of the apex court was hearing the case of electoral reforms, and the case to curtail the expenditures on election campaigns filed by constitutional expert Abid Hasan Minto, who is also the president of Workers Party Pakistan.

The court observed that the election commission has become a redundant platform, as it did not conduct any investigation or scrutinise the accounts of the political parties. An ECP official confessed before the court that the commission was practically aware about all such practices and facts but it was not in a position to take any action to curb such illegal activities.

The court observed that if the commission will not monitor transactions in the accounts of the political parties then there is even a possibility of a drug peddler buying the whole election.

The court also sought chairman National Database and Registration Authority’s (Nadra) input on a suggestion that how a voter can be intimated about related information for vote casting, name of voter and serial number of the vote.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry observed that after the 20th Constitutional amendment, the election commission is empowered even to set up a caretaker government in the country but it was scared to exercise its power to conduct fair, free and honest elections.

The election commission should conduct an audit of the accounts and hold inquiries, he added.

Chief Justice Chaudhry asked the representative of the election commission Syed Sher Afgan if he has ever taken any notice of such illegal activities to deter the others. The election commission official’s reply was in the negative.

Afgan told the court that a large number of political parties were stating their assets to the election commission incorrectly.

The chief justice said if the ECP cannot scrutinise the asset details of the political parties, then political parties should send their account statements to the post office and there would be no need of any such commission.

Afgan told the court that a parliamentary body was also working on a proposal regarding electoral reforms. While citing articles 17, 9, 218, 220 of the Constitution, the court observed that the laws already existed and they only need to be implemented. Why the transparent transaction of the tickets was not checked by ECP through scrutiny of accounts, the court asked.

Afghan, who is also the Joint Secretary of ECP, also placed on record the election scheme prepared for the last general elections. The court asked ECP to update the election scheme before next general elections. Afgan informed the court that the ECP has started working for this purpose.

Senator Faroogh Nasim, the counsel for Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), completed his arguments and will also submit a written transcript containing suggestions on behalf of his party. Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) are expected to present their stance to introduce electoral reforms on Wednesday.

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