ECP to demand affidavit of fairness from candidates

Election supervisor apprises apex court of steps to guard against corrupt practices


Hasnaat Malik February 17, 2021
PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD:

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that it had prepared draft of an affidavit that would be submitted by candidates in elections affirming that they are not involved in vote buying.

The ECP secretary submitted a report in the apex court, wherein a copy of the affidavit was attached. According to the affidavit, a candidate will give an undertaking that he or she does not pay directly or indirectly to any voter for buying their votes.

“I undertake and declare on oath that no corrupt practice, illegality or violation of the Constitution or the law has been committed by me in any form in this election. I hereby consent that the ECP may enquire into any accounts and or assets,” says the draft.

During the last hearing of the presidential reference on Senate election mode on February 16, the apex court had directed the ECP to apprise it of the steps taken to guard against the corrupt practices in terms of Article 218(3) of the Constitution.

The ECP reply said that secrecy means complete secrecy, perpetual, and not to be shared. It held that making the ballot paper identifiable with any mark will be a breach of secrecy of the ballot and violation of Article 226 of the Constitution.

However, the ECP added, it will implement the decision of the Supreme Court or any amendment made by the parliament, in letter and spirit. The reply said that the ECP held a meeting on February 16 and deliberated on the mechanism to guard against corrupt practices.

“The Election Commission has constituted a Vigilance Committee having representation from Election Commission of Pakistan/Convener and the FBR, the FIA, the NAB, the SBP and Nadra as members to assist the commission in the discharge of its duties …,” it said.

The ECP has also drafted a code of conduct for political parties, candidates, election agents and voters. The draft has been sent to the heads of parliamentary parties for deliberation and finalisation during a consultative meeting.

In order to ensure free, fair and impartial elections … the digital facilitation centres have already been established since the announcement of the schedule for Senate elections, at the ECP Secretariat and all four provincial election commissioners’ offices.

“That the underlying idea for establishment of facilitation centres was to devise an online mechanism for obtaining records of contesting candidates from Nadra, NAB, the SBP, the FBR and the FIA through the Ministry of Interior in a standardised manner,” the ECP said.

“That the Digital Facilitation Centres are providing speedy and authentic information after reconciliation electronically from all concerned departments,” it said.

“The same information is immediately forwarded to the respective RO for evaluation of nomination papers of prospective candidates for Senate Elections, 2021.”

It said that an online Complaint Management System (CMS) is deployed at the election commission which has been operational to receive complaints electronically.

“This system keeps all types of records into the database for the purpose of auditability and decision making. A total of 1,120 complaints have been received since September, 2020 to date.”

The ECP, after taking pre-emptive action under Article 218(3), has issued an order on January 20, 2021 whereby all candidates in the election to the Senate have been directed to submit an affidavit along with their nomination papers on the analogy of election to assemblies.

Furthermore, the ECP has ordered opening of an exclusive account of candidates for which every candidate is required to make any transaction towards his election expenses through that account opened for the purpose to keep the election expense of candidates within the prescribed limit of Rs1.5 million under the Elections Act, 2017.

The ECP said that mechanism to guard against corrupt practices and workable scheme is provided in Chapter-X of the Elections Act, adding that it is “cognisant of its constitutional obligation” to guard “against corrupt practice and takes cognisance of the same as and when required”.

“ECP’s tele-helpline service (051-8848888) has already been deployed for assisting general public to call and record their complaints/suggestions/comments through telephone or mobile. This service is available for all stakeholders 24/7 and it has the capability of bi-lingual (English and Urdu) recorded voice system. It has also the capability allowing caller to interact with election officials and lodge any complaint to the official.

The reply said that the online monitoring system has been upgraded to supervise all the activities pertaining to elections. The office of the Chief Election Commissioner and the ECP Secretary are equipped with monitoring dashboard that reflects real time reporting and event handling.

“Stakeholders and general public can electronically send email or register complaints to Chief Election Commissioner and Secretary. This system does allow ECP officials, PECs/RECs/DECs and all stakeholders to directly access CEC and the Secretary ECP.”

The ECP said that according to Section 81 of the Elections Act 2017, “election under this Act shall be held by secret ballot subject to the provisions of Sections 93, 94 and 103”, adding that Section 185 of the Act provides punishment for breach ‘of secrecy’. The Election Commission deliberated the secrecy of ballot in the light of Section 81, Section 185 and Article 226 of the Constitution, it added.

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