ISLAMABAD :(Web Desk)- The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) issued notices to Prime Minister Imran Khan and other PTI officials on Friday for attending an election rally in Lower Dir in violation of the ECP rule of conduct.
In addition to PM, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shah Farman, Chief Minister Mehmood Khan, federal ministers Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Asad Umer and Murad Saeed and others were among those who received notices from the ECP, according to sources.
The ECP Lower Dir district monitoring officer (DMO) issued notices to PTI officials for speaking at a public rally in contravention of the amended code of conduct. He had previously recommended the prime minister to cancel his plans, and now he has summoned him to appear before him on March 14 in person or through counsel, along with a written declaration in his defence.
The DMO stated that there was sufficient evidence to prove that the code of conduct had been broken.
“…..in case of your failure to submit your written defence or failure to appear before the undersigned, in person or through counsel, an ex-parte decision would be taken under Section-243 of the Elections Act, 2017,” the notice stated.
Moreover, notices have also been issued to seven electoral candidates from different tehsils of Lower Dir over the related violation.
In the exercise of its powers under Section 234 (3) of the Elections Act, 2017, the Election Commission can impose a maximum fine of Rs50,000 on anyone found guilty of violating the electoral code of conduct.
The commission also has the power to disqualify any candidate from contesting polls if he/she is found to be violating the electoral code of conduct more than once, under Section 234(4) of the Act.
ECP amends code of conduct
Earlier, putting aside the ‘controversial’ presidential ordinance, amending electoral rules, the ECP barred key public office-holders, including the president and prime minister, from taking part in the election campaigns.
The ECP revised the code of conduct for political parties and candidates in the light of the recent consultation with the political parties, says a statement issued by the commission’s media wing here.
However, members of parliament and the provincial assemblies have been allowed to take part in electoral campaigns.
The public office-holders, including the president, PM, chairman, deputy chairman, speaker, deputy speaker of any assembly, federal ministers, ministers of state, governors, chief ministers, provincial ministers, and advisors to the prime minister, mayors, chairmen, nazims, and their deputies, would not participate in any manner whatsoever, the ECP order said.
However, parliamentarians and legislators of provincial assemblies are allowed to participate in the election campaigns, subject to their strict adherence to the code of conduct, which is stated in the revised code of conduct.
Section 181 of the Elections Act, 2017 states: “No government functionary or elected representative, including a local government functionary or elected representative, shall announce any development scheme for a constituency after the announcement of the election programme for that constituency.”
However, through the ordinance, promulgated by President Dr Arif Alvi last month, Section 181(A) has been added to the Act: The new law allows a member of parliament, provincial assembly or elected member of local government, including a member holding any other office under the constitution or any other law, to visit or address public meetings in any area or constituency.
With reference to the related ordinance, the Election Commission had also recently written to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs for its review and contended that it was for the Commission to frame a code of conduct for political parties, contesting candidates, and others involved in the electoral exercise, under Section 233 of the Elections Act.
‘New code prepared in consultation with parties’
A senior official of the Election Commission explained that the revised code of conduct has been issued after consultations with the political parties in line with the law, and he also noted that the parliament and the provincial assemblies were barred under Article 222 of the Constitution from passing any law that has the effect of taking away or abridging any of the powers of the chief election commissioner or the commission itself.
The Commission has come up with a revised code of conduct at a time when the second phase of the local government (LG) polls is set to take place on March 31 in the remaining 18 out of 35 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the first phase of LG polls in 17 out of 36 districts of Punjab is to be conducted in the last week of May.
AGP disagrees with ECP
Additionally, Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan has said that the ECP could not ignore the ordinance promulgated by the president, according to a The News report.
Responding to an ECP notice to PM Imran Khan for holding a public rally in Lower Dir, the AG said: “They [ECP] are vested with no jurisdiction to nullify its effect, which can only be done by a high court or the Supreme Court.”
“The ECP can regulate, but it cannot nullify an ordinance, nor prohibit any activity permissible under it,” he added.
A senior lawyer, who has expertise in election laws, said the ECP had the discretion to impose a fine or issue a contempt notice to the premier.