ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim has made an appeal to the heads of different political parties to help the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) pre-empt any attempt to subvert the coming elections.
He said the ECP expected the parties to rise to the occasion and help the commission in providing peaceful atmosphere during the pre-poll period and on the polling day so that no one was allowed to sabotage or subvert the elections in any manner.
“This can only be done if all political parties and their candidates ensure compliance with the code of conduct,” Justice Ebrahim said in letters written to the chiefs of 148 parties.
He said the ECP, conscious of its constitutional obligations, had taken a number of crucial steps to ensure that the election process was conducted in a smooth and peaceful manner.
“We will continue to adopt every conceivable measure, in accordance with law, to provide an electoral environment which is conducive for campaigning and for voters to exercise their right to vote freely, without any fear or intimidation.
“But you will appreciate that this is possible only if all stakeholders in the election exercise play their role by following the rules of the game set by the ECP in the code of conduct for political parties and candidates,” he stressed.
The chief election commissioner asked the leaders to advise the rank and file of their parties to promote and maintain peace and harmony during the election campaign.
He said that while candidates and parties had every right to reach out to voters and propagate their manifestos and policies, they must respect others’ right to do the same.
“It is essential that we adopt, in the larger national interest, the policy of coexistence at all levels and at all stages in the election process.”
Justice Ebrahim said a sense of responsibility and sincerity would go a long way in nurturing democracy and promoting values of tolerance, thus sending a message to the outside world that Pakistanis believed in peace and harmony.
Pakistan was passing through a critical phase of its national history as more than 85 million voters would soon choose their representatives at national and provincial levels for the next five years.
“Democracy, we all know, with its many variations, is the only reliable medium of governing people in accordance with their free will expressed by them through a credible and transparent electoral process.”
INTERIOR MINISTER: The ECP has decided to convey its concern to the interim government over a controversial statement made by caretaker Interior Minister Malik Habib Khan.
An official of the ECP said the statement was seen by the commission as out of the scope of the caretaker governments’ mandate which was limited to ensuring free and fair polls.
Almost all the major parties have taken exception to remarks made by Mr Habib in a recent TV interview in support of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.
The PPP, PTI, MQM and ANP, while criticising the minister for praising Mr Sharif, asked the caretaker prime minister and the ECP to remove him.
A PTI spokesman said only neutral persons could ensure impartial polls. “The party leadership is closely monitoring the situation. The interior minister of the interim government has betrayed his bias and partisan approach by making a public statement in favour of a political party. This statement has jeopardised the neutrality of the caretaker regime,” he said.
Malik Habib had reportedly said that he supported the PML-N and would vote for Mr Sharif who, according to him, was the only true leader of the country.
Samsam Bukhari, a minister in the previous government, said his party would file a reference with the ECP against the minister’s controversial remarks.
The ANP’s Zahid Khan told a TV channel that his party had decided to raise the issue in the Senate. The caretaker ministers were answerable to the house, he added.