Senate committee okays new ECP code of conduct
08 January, 2013
ISLAMABAD: The Senate Special Committee on Election Issues on Monday approved with certain amendments the new code of conduct of the Election Commission of Pakistan to make it more effective for dealing with violations.
The committee met under the chairmanship of Senator Jahangir Badar and was attended by senators Ishaq Dar, Saeed Ghani, Shahi Sayyed, Zahid Khan, Col (r) Tahir Mashhadi, and MNAs Anusha Rahman, Hameedullah Jan Afridi and S Iqbal Qadri. By and large it evolved consensus on all the points of code of conduct. Under the new code of conduct, the president, governors, prime ministers, chief ministers and ministers in the caretaker set-up would not be allowed to contest the elections.
The clause relating to speaking against the sovereignty of country or defaming the judiciary or armed forces has been limited to contesting candidates. The committee agreed to allow displaying of banners and posters as well as distributing handbills and leaflets as part of election campaigns, and excluded the hoardings to keep the expenses on this account in check. Convener of the committee, Senator Jahangir Badar, said that reforms are meant to allow greater participation of common man in election. "If traditional process is kept intact it would destroy the spirit the exercise of election reforms," he stated. The committee also endorsed the provision on banning of walk-chalking as envisioned in the new code of conduct for the next general elections.
The political parties and contesting candidates would be barred from hoisting party flags on public properties and public offices, except with approval from the concerned person or office. The committee also agreed with the clause that contesting candidates should not give gifts or gratifications or inducement to any person to gain favour in the election.
The provision relating to incitement of violence during meetings and processions was also agreed upon the committee. On the use of public transport for movement of voters to and from polling stations, the committee agreed to keep the bar on it as per the exiting law, which is also supported by the judgement of the apex judiciary.
Badar suggested that in order to comply with this provisions of code of conduct, the election commission should set up more and more polling stations to facilitate the voters. ECP secretary expressed the inability of the commission to provide this facility to the voters, and pointed out that even if it is provided it can be used against the commission by the losing candidates, who may accuse the commission of not properly transporting the voters to the polling stations.
The committee also endorsed the ban on use of abusive language or spread of malicious information by political parties and contesting candidates against political leaders or political parties. It did not agree with the portion in a clause regarding ban on making promises with the voters for development works during the election campaign and omitted it with consensus. It also endorsed the provision regarding banning candidates to encourage or discourage any voter within a 400-meter radius of a polling station.
The committee also unanimously agreed upon the clause of code of conduct by putting a bar on propagation against any gender as well as debarring women to vote or contest in elections.