ISLAMABAD: Political parties will hold their last meetings in support of their candidates on Thursday when campaigning for May 11 elections will come to an end.
There was confusion about the time when the campaign is required to end because of ECP’s announcement that all forms of canvassing would have to end 48 hours before polling. But an official of the Election Commission of Pakistan clarified that the provision meant 48 hours before closing (and not opening) of polling.
He said the campaigning would have to end at midnight (May 9-10) and warned that those found to be violating the provision would face legal action.
According to the ECP official, Section 84 of the Representation of People Act, 1976, bars all persons from convening, holding or attending any public meeting and promoting or joining any procession during the 48-hour period.
He said any contravention of the provision might entail serious consequences, including rigorous imprisonment for up to six months, fine of up to Rs100,000 and disqualification.
The official said the ECP had decided to ban carrying of mobile phones and other electronic devices inside polling booths to maintain secrecy of the ballot and guard against corrupt practices. He said there had been instances in the past when the voters had allegedly photographed the ballot paper after casting their votes, apparently for monetary benefit.
Under the law, a person is guilty of an offence punishable with imprisonment of up to six months if he interferes or attempts to interfere with an elector when he records his vote, obtains or attempts to obtain in any manner information as to the candidate for whom an elector is about to vote or has voted, or communicates at any time any such information obtained in a polling station.
He said a returning officer, assistant returning officer, presiding officer, assistant presiding officer, polling officer or any candidate, election agent or polling agent at a polling station, or any person attending the counting of votes would also be guilty of an offence punishable with imprisonment for six months if he failed to maintain or aid in maintaining secrecy of voting. He said the officials involved in the conduct or management of an election or maintenance of order at a polling station would also invite trouble for themselves if they influenced the voting of any person.
Those in the service of Pakistan are guilty of an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term extendable to two years if found misusing their official position to influence the results.
A police officer may arrest, without a warrant, any person for disorderly conduct near polling stations and committing any offence at a polling station if the presiding officer asks him to do so.
The officers can also remove any notice, sign, banner or flag used in contravention of the law and seize any instrument or apparatus used to create a disorderly atmosphere near polling stations.