ECP issues 49 point Code of Conduct for general elections

Election Commission of Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan on Wednesday issued a 49-point Code of Conduct for general elections strictly cautioning the contestants to abide by rules and regulations to ensure secrecy of the ballot and transparency of the process.

Adopted at a meeting of the Commission chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhar-ud-din G Ibrahim, the Code of Conduct restricts political parties and candidates from propagating any opinion, or act in any manner prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan, or the sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan.It further restricts them from propagating anything prejudicial to morality, or the maintenance of public order, or the integrity or independence of the judiciary or which defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary or the Armed Forces of Pakistan, as provided under Article 63 of the Constitution.

The parties and candidates shall abide by all the laws, rules, regulations and directions issued by the Commission, from time to time, relating to smooth conduct of elections and the maintenance of public order.The political parties and candidates shall at all times uphold the rights and freedom of the people as guaranteed by the Constitution and law.

All the political parties, candidates and their supporters shall avoid scrupulously all activities, which are offences under the election laws, such as bribing of voters, intimidation and personation, canvassing within 400 yards of a polling station, including setting up of camps and holding public meetings during 48 hours ending at midnight following the conclusion of poll for an election in the constituency.

The Code of Conduct also restricts the parties, the candidates and their supporters from inciting violence or resorting to violence during meetings, processions, or during polling hours.They shall publicly condemn violence and intimidation and do not use language that might lead to violence or resort to violence during meetings, processions, or during polling hours.

Moreover, no person shall in any manner cause injury to any person or damage to any property.Political parties, contesting candidates and their supporters shall not procure the support or assistance of any civil servant to promote or hinder the election of a contesting candidate.

Political parties and contesting candidates shall dissuade their workers or sympathizers from destroying any ballot paper or any official mark on the ballot paper.Furthermore, no person or political party or a contesting candidate and their supporters shall hoist or fix party flags on any public property or at any public place, except with the permission in writing from, and on payment of such fee or charges as may be chargeable by the concerned local government or authorities.

Wall chalking as part of an election campaign shall be prohibited in all forms while no person or a political party shall affix posters, hoardings, banners or leaflets/ handbills larger than the sizes prescribed by the Commission. The poster size will be (2-feet x 3-feet) with the hoardings size (3-feet x 5-feet) and the banners size (3-feet x 9-feet).

The head of district administration and the District Returning Officer shall be responsible for the effective implementation of this provision as the Commission has directed the political parties, contesting candidates and their supporters not to indulge in offering gifts or gratifications or inducement to any person to stand or not to stand as a candidate, or to withdraw or not to withdraw his candidature.

The Commission has further directed that political parties, contesting candidates and their supporters may announce their overall development programme, but after the announcement of the election schedule till the day of polling, no candidate or any person on his behalf shall openly or in secret, give any subscription or donation, or make promise for giving such subscription or donation, to any institution of their respective constituency or to any other institution, nor shall commit to undertake any development project in the respective constituency.

The political parties contesting candidates and their supporters shall refrain from speeches calculated to arouse parochial and sectarian feelings and controversy of conflicts between genders, sects, communities and linguistic groups.They have also been asked to refrain from deliberate dissemination of false and malicious information. The workers of political parties shall not indulge in forgeries and disinformation to defame other political parties/leaders while the use of abusive language against the leaders and candidates of other political parties shall be avoided at all costs.

Political parties contesting candidates and their supporters shall not use any vehicle to transport to or from the polling station any elector except himself and members of his immediate family and shall not propagate against the participation of any person in the elections on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion or caste.The political parties contesting candidates and their supporters or other persons shall not encourage or enter into formal or informal agreements debarring women from becoming candidates or exercising their right of vote in an election.

Canvassing for votes, soliciting of votes, persuading any elector not to vote at the election or for a particular candidate, or exhibiting any notice, sign, banner or flag designed to encourage the electors to vote or discourage the electors from voting for any contesting candidate will be prohibited within a radius of 400 yards of the polling station.It has been directed that no transaction for election expenses shall be made through an account other than the account opened for the purpose and all transactions relating to the election expenses shall be entered with GST registered firms.

The Commission has cautioned that violation of these provisions amounts either to corrupt practice or illegal practice, which are punishable under the law as it expected all necessary help from the parties, candidates and supporters to law- enforcement agencies for ensuring safety and security of election materials, election officials and polling agents on polling day.

The political parties shall endeavour to provide equal opportunity to its qualified members both men and women to participate in electoral process none among them shall permit its candidates or followers to make use of any individual?s land, building, compound wall etc. without his permission for erecting flag-staffs, suspending banners, pasting notices and writing slogans.

Issuance of advertisement at the cost of public exchequer in newspapers and other media and misuse of official mass media during election period for partisan coverage of political news and publicity shall be avoided by the federal, provincial and local governments.

Moreover, criticism of other political parties and opponent candidates shall be confined to their policies and programmes, past record and work. Parties and candidates shall refrain from criticism of any aspect of private life, not connected with the public activities of the leaders or workers of other parties. Criticism based on unverified allegations distortion of facts shall be avoided.

The right of every individual for peaceful and undisturbed domestic life shall be respected, irrespective of any resentment that a political party or a candidate may have against such individual for his political opinion or activities. Organizing demonstrations or picketing before the house of such individual with a view to protest against his political opinion or activities shall be prohibited under any circumstances.

The Commission has directed that political parties and candidates shall firmly restrain their workers from exerting undue pressure against the print and electronic media, including newspaper offices and printing presses, or resorting to violence of any kind against the media.

There will be a complete ban on carriage and display of all kinds of weapons and fire arms in public meetings and processions as well as on the polling day and till 24-hours after the consolidation of official results by the Returning Officer and official regulations in respect thereof shall be strictly observed.Aerial firing, use of crackers and other explosives at public meetings and at or near the polling stations by the political parties and candidates shall not be allowed.

The Commission has mentioned that the President, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker National Assembly, the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman of the Senate, the Prime Minister, Federal Ministers, Ministers of State, Governors, Chief Ministers, Provincial Ministers and Advisors to the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers and other public office holders shall not combine their official visits with election campaign. This provision will also be applicable to the Caretaker set-up.

It has been directed that local government functionaries and representatives shall not announce any development scheme or do anything which tends to influence the results of an election in favor or against a particular candidate or political party.The political parties shall take necessary steps to instill discipline within the party, its candidates, employees and supporters and guide them to follow this Code, comply with laws and regulations, commit no election irregularities, and adhere to election regulations.

According to the Code of Conduct, the posters affixed by one party shall neither be removed nor distribution of handbills and leaflets be prevented by workers of another party.About the public meeting, the Election Commission explained that political parties and candidate shall hold public rallies and meetings only at places through the specified routes.

Such places and routes shall be pre-determined in every city and town by district or local administration in consultation with representatives of major political parties and be notified for public information.The political parties and candidates shall convey their schedule of meetings at least one week in advance. District and local administration shall be responsible for making appropriate security arrangements and regulating such meetings ensuring equal opportunities to those interested in holding rallies and meetings.

The political parties and candidates shall abide by decision of the district or local administration regarding holding of public meetings and rallies and shall not hold such meetings at places other than those notified. Car rallies will not be allowed to travel long distances except if the political parties, candidates or their supporters have pre-arranged corner meetings at specific designated places.

The Commission has directed that processions shall not be taken out by one party along places at which meetings are being held by another party.A party or a candidate organizing a procession shall decide before hand the time and place of the starting of the procession, the route to be followed and the time and place at which the procession will terminate.

The route of procession shall be decided in consultation with local or district administration. There shall ordinarily be no deviation from the programme and the organizers shall give intimation to the district administration of the change in program at least two days in advance to enable them to make necessary arrangements.

The organizers shall take steps in advance to arrange for passage of the procession so that there is no blockage of or hindrance to traffic. If the procession is very long, it shall be organized in segments of suitable lengths, at convenient intervals and especially at points where the procession has to pass road junctions, the passage of held-up traffic could be allowed by stages thus avoiding heavy traffic congestion and inconvenience of the general public.

It has been stated that if two or more political parties or candidates propose to take processions over the same route or parts thereof at about the same time, the organizers shall establish contact well in advance and decide upon the measures to be taken to ensure that the processions do not clash or cause hindrance to traffic.The assistance of the local administration shall be availed for arriving at a satisfactory arrangement. For this purpose, the parties shall contact the local administration at the earliest opportunity but not later than three clear days before the date of the procession.

The political parties or candidates shall exercise control to the maximum extent possible in the matter of persons in the processions carrying weapons or articles, which may be put to misuse causing violence by undesirable elements, especially in moments of excitement.For the polling day, the Commission has expected cooperation of the political parties and candidates with the officers on election duty to ensure peaceful and orderly polling and complete freedom to the voters to exercise their franchise without being subjected to any annoyance or obstructions; and supply to their authorized polling agents badges or identity cards.

No political party or a candidate or any of their supporters or a polling agent shall interfere or create hindrance in any manner in official functioning of a Presiding, Assistant Presiding Officer, Polling Officer or Security Personnel appointed to perform duty at a polling station.In addition, no political party or a candidate or any of their supporters or a polling agent shall resort to violence in any form or manner against a Presiding, Assistant Presiding Officer, Polling Officer or Security Official or any other person officially deputed to work at a polling station.

The Commission has also asked the political parties to carry out a comprehensive plan for voters’ education regarding marking the ballot paper, casting of vote and informing the voters to maintain secrecy of ballot while casting their vote.In no case the political parties, candidates or their supporters shall establish camps near the polling station on the polling day, the Commission revealed. The candidates may, however, if so desired, provide ‘Perchis’ to voters but only during their house to house canvassing and such ‘Perchis’ shall only contain the number and name of polling station, serial number, name, and NIC number of the voter on the electoral roll and name and number of electoral area and no other sign of any kind whatsoever shall be put on such Perchis”.

Except the voters, candidates or duly authorized election agents, no one without a valid pass from the Election Commission or Provincial Election Commissioner, District Returning Officer, or Returning officer concerned shall enter the polling station or a booth. Foreign or domestic observers and representatives of accredited bodies will also be provided access to witness the election process on production of identification cards or passes issued by the Election Commission authorities.

The District Returning Officer and Returning Officer shall be responsible to ensure implementation of the Code of Conduct, in their capacity as Magistrate First Class, through district or local administration, district police or other law enforcing agencies, in the area of their jurisdiction, and violation thereof by any candidate or political party shall be tantamount to malpractice as per law and rules and shall entail legal action as per law and rules including disqualification of the candidate.