Code of Conduct: Let’s bend rules to avoid breaking them

Monitoring officers concerned believe the bypasses are a violation.


Photo Abid Nawaz/rameez Khan April 14, 2013
Monitoring officers concerned believe the bypasses are a violation. PHOTO: ABID NAWAZ/EXPRESS

LAHORE:


Some political parties seem to have found a way around the Election Commission rules, which specify the sizes of campaign posters and banners, by putting up posters and banners of prescribed sizes by the dozen on big boards.


The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) offices on Lower Mall are two such examples. The central office of PML-N for NA-120 is a three-storey building. Its facade has been covered with 77 posters, pasted so closely together that it is impossible to see the surface beneath. Of these, 38 posters feature a picture of the party chief Nawaz Sharif. The PML-N’s election symbol – a tiger – and the chand sitara (the crescent moon and star) of the party flag share the display space.

As many as 84 posters – also of the size allowed by the Election Commission – cover a huge billboard installed in front of the PTI’s Central office at 135 Upper Mall. Of these, 42 posters feature a picture of the PTI chairman, Imran Khan, while the rest carry a picture of Aleem Khan, the party’s Lahore president.

According to the Election Commission of Pakistan’s Code of Conduct, posters can be no larger than 2’x3’, hoardings no bigger than 3’x5’, banners no bigger than 3’x9’ and leaflets (handbills) no bigger than 9”x6”.

The parties involved don’t see the displays as a violation. They argue that since each of the posters meets the size recommended by the ECP, there is no breach. They add that the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) – a city government agency – had not raised any objections. (The Authority has to be paid a fee for any promotional material that is displayed on the roads). However, the district officers concerned – who comprise the monitoring teams that work under the returning officers to ensure that the ECP’s Code of Conduct is adhered to – believe that both parties are violating the Code.

Syed Muhammad Azmat, who manages the PML-N office, housed at Simons Tower, said the posters were “completely legal”. “We have paid the PHA fee... which proves that pasting these posters is legal,” he said. Azmat said the party had stuck to the size specifications laid down by the Election Commission, adding that they had “left space in between two posters”.

DO (Special Education) Muhammad Ghafoor, who is a member of the NA-120 monitoring team, told The Express Tribune that he had reported what he believed was a violation to the returning officer concerned on Friday. It would have been okay, he said, if the posters were put up with significant space between them. He did not say how much space would be required between the posters to ‘make them legal’.

A monitoring officer for NA-122 (the constituency where the PTI Office is located), DO (Cooperatives and Deputy Registrar) Muhammad Ejaz Khan, also considers the way the posters have been displayed as a violation. He plans on reporting it on Monday. “The rules were laid down to limit spending on publicity,” said Khan. He sees no difference between putting up a huge poster and a number of smaller posters next to each other to take up the same space.

Tariq Shabbir, the personal assistant of Aleem Khan, also told The Express Tribune that the PTI had not violated the Code. “The PHA has told us how much we owe it,” Shabbir said. The party would pay the authority soon, he said.

When contacted, PHA Director (Marketing) Mian Muddassir said that since the ECP Code does not specify whether or not there has to be a certain amount of space between two posters, what the PML-N and PTI had done could not be described as a violation. Asked whether the PML-N had paid the Authority, he said they were yet to receive payment from either party. “The PTI earlier had one big poster on the board. We told them it was illegal and they took it off,” Muddassir said.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2013. 

COMMENTS (4)

Antebellum | 8 years ago | Reply

Instead of discussing the party manifestoes and their policies on important issues we are wasting time and space on such unimportant trivial matters. We as a nation need to set our priorities right!

KKK | 8 years ago | Reply

i hate this country's journalism!! i know its poppin out of nowhere but i cant help

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