7-year jail proposed for arms' use, display during polls
16 February, 2013
ISLAMABAD: The Parliamentary Committee on Election Reforms has agreed to strictly prohibit the display and use of firearms during the forthcoming elections, and suggested seven years imprisonment sentence for violators.
During a recent meeting of the parliamentary panel, in the presence of the representatives of the Ministry of Law and Justice and Election Commission of Pakistan, it has been agreed that this provision should be included in the draft amendments to be presented before parliament for approval.
The committee members, especially Anusha Rehman who held detailed discussions with the representatives of the Law Ministry and the ECP officials, were of the view that a ban on display of firearms and their use, even for celebration, should be part of the proposed amendments in the election laws of the country.
The reasons that were discussed during the meeting were that the use of firearms not only provokes the opponent candidates' workers and the candidates themselves, but also results in sad incidents like killing or severe injuries to the political workers and even the general public during the election campaign. The parliamentary panel was also of the view that video recordings shown by the electronic media relating to use of fire arms by the workers of election candidates tarnishes the image of the country, as these transmissions are also aired abroad.
The committee noted that such videos were even used to project Pakistan as a lawless country by the anti-Pakistan elements. It has also agreed in principle to suggest a Rs 100,000 fine for crimes not defined in the law, like holding of public meetings without obtaining permission of authorities concerned, holding car or motorcycle rallies and causing hurdles in smooth flow of traffic and problems for the general public, playing recordings late into night and chanting of slogans or defaming or provoking opponents.
Another proposal from the committee was that election fee should be fixed at Rs10,000 for the National Assembly candidates and Rs 5000 for the candidates of the provincial assemblies. This fee has been suggested keeping in view the thinking that every Pakistani has the right to contest elections and election fee should be kept at a level that can be paid by a common man. According to the members, forfeiture of the election fee of the candidate who fails to get a minimum required number of votes should continue to discourage non-serious candidates.
The parliamentary panel was also of the view that fee for challenging the legality of vote of any voter should remain at the existing level so that the actual voters are provided the opportunity to elect their representatives for national and provincial assemblies. The committee, which had been formed to suggest election reforms, has already deliberated upon the code of conduct for the general election 2013 as well as reforms needed to make the election process transparent. In this regard, it has held meetings with civil society, legal experts, political parties not represented in parliament.
This committee is expected to finalise its deliberations by February 22 and the draft recommendations would be placed before the National Assembly during its forthcoming session, which starts by February 18. According to the officials of the National Assembly Secretariat, the next session of the assembly, which is the 50th and marks the golden jubilee, would be able to pass these election reforms.