Candidates for the federal capital’s two National Assembly seats seem to have spent big bucks on their campaigns by plastering their faces all over the city on banners and posters, running newspaper ads and enthusiastically holding political gatherings and rallies.
However, they seem less enthused about letting anyone know how much has been spent on campaigning
Out of the 70-plus candidates still in the running for Islamabad’s NA-48 and NA-49, only four have submitted their election expenditure summaries for the first two weeks of electioneering to the district returning officer (DRO), even though it is an Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) requirement. Each contesting candidate is required to file a statement to the DRO every Thursday of the campaign period detailing the election expenses made by the candidate during the previous week.
As of Monday, May 6, only Mian Aslam (NA-48) and Zubair Farooq (NA-49), both of the Jamaat-e Islami (JI), Chaudhry Ghulam Rasool Mahar of the Pakistan Justice Party (NA-48 and 49) and independent candidate Julius Salik (NA-48) had submitted their weekly campaign expenditures.
Aslam statement presented to the DRO lists his expenditure at around Rs800,000 between April 19 and May 1 — around 53 per cent of the ECP’s Rs1.5 million spending limit.
Posters, banners, stickers, flags and tent service charges made up the bulk of Aslam’s campaign expenses, but he also spent around Rs150,000 on newspaper ads.
According to the ECP code of conduct, the money spent on campaigning must be drawn from an account the candidates opened specifically for electioneering and reported to the ECP in their nomination papers.
Violation of the code of conduct start with fines for minor violations, but major violations can result in disqualification.
During the same period, Zubair Farooq reportedly spent Rs680,095 on electioneering, while Salik claimed expenses of Rs70,000. Chaudhry Ghulam Rasool Mahar of the Pakistan Justice Party also submitted his expenses — a total of Rs61,200 — but on Wednesday, he withdrew from the NA-48 race in favour of Aslam.
Both Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate on a re-election bid in NA-49, and Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf’s Ilyas Meherban, also running from NA-49, would not admit they had failed to submit the statements when contacted by The Express Tribune.
They claimed they had been following the ECP’s code of conduct, but the DRO had no record of their campaign expenses.
The candidates also refused to disclose the amount of money spent on their campaigns during the interview. According to the Capital Development Authority, Chaudhry and Meherban have paid the agency Rs102,000 and Rs24,000 respectively as fees for putting up campaign streamers in their constituency.
Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidate in NA-49, has been running a visibly extensive campaign. He claimed to be unaware of the requirement.
“I have not been notified by the ECP, the returning officer or the DRO about this [submitting campaign expenditure] clause,” Khokhar said. “I cannot be expected to comply with a code provision that I have not been notified of.”
He claimed the copy of the code of conduct available with him does not have the election expenditure clauses, and said he received the copy from the ECP about a month ago.
The ECP issued the final code of conduct through a directive on March 27.
When informed that the ECP will only notify the winning candidate’s results if the candidate has not violated the election expenditure limit, Khokhar said he was ready to comply with any such requirement put forth by the ECP.
Other major party candidates — the PML-N’s Anjum Aqeel Khan, the PPP’s Faisal Sakhi Butt and the PTI’s Javed Hashmi (all NA-48) — were unavailable for comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2013.