Representatives of a number of political parties have called for implementation of the code of conduct framed by the election watchdog for upcoming polls in letter and spirit.
They made this demand at a consultation organised by the Jinnah Institute in collaboration with the Asia Foundation on Thursday. The code was formulated by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
A parliamentary committee, formed to improve the procedures, processes and tools for the implementation of the code of conduct, has recommended seven years’ imprisonment without bail for the display of weapons during elections, MNA Anusha Rahman of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said. She shared recommendations of the multi-party parliamentary body at the consultation.
A complete ban has also been recommended on the use of banners and hoardings that violate the ECP-notified size.
MNA Bushra Gohar of the Awami National Party (ANP) was of the view that redundant and repetitive provisions must be removed from the code.
The ban on transfers and postings of officials for polls must be enforced to curb electoral manipulation, she said. The ECP must ensure that the role of security agencies is minimal to the best possible extent, Gohar said.
Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf joint secretary Yunus Raza floated the idea of mobile polling stations to facilitate women. He also termed the 48-hour period for strict scrutiny of nomination papers as unrealistic.
“Electoral reforms will remain meaningless unless the cause of the problem is addressed,” Awami Workers Party (AWP) vice-president Hassan Nasir said.
“The psychology behind party preferences for elections is the real cause (for problems with the electoral system),” Nasir said. “This is a major hurdle in providing a level playing field to all political parties.”
The judicial mindset also needs to be changed.
“We should not wait for anyone to lodge a complaint,” said Sarwar Bari, director of the Pattan Development Organisation. “Instead, the courts themselves should take notice of any violation of the election code of conduct.”
The participants urged all stakeholders, including the ECP, the judiciary, the police and local administrations to play their role in ensuring that the upcoming elections are held in a free and fair manner.
Raza Rumi, director of the Jinnah Institute, in his concluding remarks said political parties should ensure women’s participation.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2013.