The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday issued a draft of the code of conduct for the forthcoming general elections in which they have cautioned against the use of abusive language against opponents during campaigning would be considered a corrupt practice.
A meeting between ECP officials and representatives of political parties has taken place in this regard with a a formal announcement expected soon.
The six-category code, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, outlines rules and regulations political parties, candidates and election agents have to adhere with during the elections. The categories are: general conduct, campaign, publicity, meetings and processions, polling day, and miscellaneous.
Political parties and candidates have been asked to refrain from propagating opinions contrary to the Constitution and the Ideology of Pakistan. They have also been told to uphold the rights and freedom of the people of Pakistan.
ECP rules also bar the government or any authority from posting or transferring any official appointed or deputed in connection with polls without prior ECP approval.
Failure to abide by the code of conduct and maligning the electoral body in any form whatsoever would entail contempt, according to the rules drafted by the commission.
Political parties have been told not to receive money from prospective candidates in the guise of 'party funds' as tickets are awarded.
5% tickets must be awarded to women, in line with laws which call for the equal representation of qualified men and women in the legislative bodies of Pakistan. Candidates have been instructed against damaging ballot papers or official documents during the elections.
The ECP has capped the elections expenses per National Assembly seat at Rs4 million, and at Rs2 million per provincial seat. To ensure further transparency, the electoral body has bound candidates to open exclusive accounts for this purpose in any bank across Pakistan so their transactions can be monitored. According to the code of conduct, candidates are required to submit a complete account of the expenses incurred during elections to ECP within ten days of polling.
Political parties have been advised to refrain from influencing print or the electronic media, or resorting to violence of any kind against news outlets.
Public display of firearms has been banned from meetings, processions, and other activities related to the elections. The ban will remain in force until twenty-four hours after the consolidation of the results by the ECP.
The President, the caretaker cabinet and other government officials will not take part in election activity.
The code of conduct proposed for the general elections has banned political parties from using funds from the public exchequer to run political campaigns in the print or electronic media.
The document states that party flags are also not allowed on public property or space, albeit under written agreement from local authorities or payment of fees, under which exceptions can be made. Parties and candidates are also required to refrain from printing religious verses on posters and advertisements.
ECP has proposed a blanket ban on graffitti, hoardings, and billboards.
Meetings and processions
Political parties and candidates have been told to inform district authorities about any planned processions or rallies. The ECP has also asked authorities to ensure this does not impact smooth flow of traffic.
Car rallies have been prohibited, but corner meetings are allowed. A one-week notice is required to hold such gatherings, according to the document.
The ECP has barred political parties from holding more than one jalsa in a single constituency. Political leaders, local government officials and elected representatives have also been barred from inaugurating completed or announcing new development works till elections have been held. Violations will be treated as "illegal practices".
"On Polling Day, there shall be a complete ban on all kinds of campaign, canvassing, persuading of voters for vote, soliciting of vote and not to vote in the election or canvassing for a particular candidate within the radius of 400 meters of a polling station. Violation will be treated as an illegal practice," reads a rule.
ECP has advised political parties to educate voters on how to cast votes but refrain from exhibiting notices, signs, banners or flags.
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