LG reps barred from campaigning

Former opposition parties say PML-N using govt machinery to influence polls


Our Correspondent July 02, 2018
PHOTO: ECP.GOV.PK

LAHORE: Following complaints from outgoing opposition parties, the Local Government and Community Development (LGCD) department barred elected grass-roots-level representatives from participating in political activities and campaigns.

A LGCD department spokesman said a notification ordered the implementation of the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) Code of Conduct.

The department barred all mayors, deputy mayors, chairmen, vice chairmen and other elected public representatives of the metropolitan corporation, district councils, municipal corporations and municipal committees from participating in or cooperating with the electioneering of any political party.

Violation of election laws

“The caretaker government has decided not to allow any local government representative to participate in the election campaign of any party,” he said. The spokesman added strict action would be taken against all violators of the ECP code.

He highlighted that ECP forwarded complaints of 823 polling stations across Punjab and the department provided all requisite facilities at 819 of them. He pointed out that 188 polling stations had no boundary walls so the department made arrangements for the placement of tents.

He further stated that the commission forwarded 68 complaints of different violations of the code by government officers and officials. The LGCD department, he added, resolved these complaints by taking necessary action.

Former opposition parties had already demanded that the ECP suspend or cease the powers of local governments as the former ruling party has the majority number of seats in the grassroots governance system.  They alleged local governments across Punjab were using officials to influence the election process.

Contesting candidates of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and other former opposition parties complained local government representatives used their position and state resources for the election campaign of PML-N. They stated that such actions were a gross violation of the ECP code.

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PTI NA-130 candidate Shafqat Mahmood outlined that his party demanded the suspension of all local governments till polling day on July 25. He added that since PML-N had the highest number of representatives, it was involved in pre-poll rigging through handpicked individuals.

PTI NA-133 candidate Ejaz Chaudhry claimed elected LG representatives were conducting door-to-door campaigns for former ruling party candidates.

“They are using their position and public resources to benefit one party. In all areas, town administrations are engaged in displaying banners of PML-N candidates and are removing the posters of the opposition.”

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PML-Q senior central leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi also believed that free, fair and transparent election could not be held without suspending local bodies. He added PML-N has already started pre-poll rigging in Punjab through local government representatives who were busy organising meetings and public gatherings for the party candidates.

“Caretaker governments claim the holding of fair and transparent elections, but that is not possible unless local bodies are suspended till polling day. Only then will the claim be based in reality.”

The ECP and caretaker governments should take immediate notice of this situation,” he maintained.

Meanwhile, Lahore Deputy Commissioner Anwarul Haq also ordered his teams to remove all election publicity material which was larger than the sizes approved by the commission.

Following the DC’s order, district and zones officials removed most big large banners, streamers and poster from main commercial areas of the city late on Saturday night. District administration teams conducted operations on Jail Road, Mall Road, Allama Iqbal Town and other main city roads.

Haq told the media that the district administration formed zonal teams in under the leadership of the zone officer regulations. These would continue their drive in the lead up to polls.

He highlighted that the ECP’s monitoring officers were also visiting different areas in the provincial metropolis to ensure proper implementation of the ECP code. The same officials would send reports of their visits to the
DC office.

The DC underscored that the district administration was conducting the operation without discrimination. “I am also visiting different areas of the city to inspect performance of these monitoring teams,” he concluded.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2018.

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