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Election code of conduct violations galore

May 12, 2013

PESHAWAR, May 11: The code of conduct issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan was violated by candidates and their supporters in majority of the constituencies in the provincial capital on Saturday.

In total disregard of the code of conduct, supporters of political parties were seen canvassing for their respective candidates near polling stations and that they also hired vehicles for transporting voters to polling stations.

The violations were seen more near rural polling stations compared to those in urban localities. Interestingly, there was no one in the filed to check these violations.

Section 18 of the code of conduct provided that political parties contesting candidates and their supporters should not use any vehicle to transport to or from polling station voters except himself and members of his immediate family.

Contrary to the code of conduct, candidates and their supporters had hired vehicles, including pickups, and were ferrying voters, especially women, to polling stations.

“My services have been hired for Rs3,000 per day for the last three days by a candidate,” said driver of a pick-up vehicle, Hameed Kahn, outside a women polling station in Kaga Wala rural locality of NA-4 constituency.

He said supporters of other parties had also approached him but he opted to make a deal with the one from his village.

The driver told Dawn that his prime responsibility was to carry women to polling station from a nearby area.

Supporter of one of the candidates, Hazrat Gul, said the ban imposed by ECP on vehicles was unrealistic as in several areas, polling stations were situated away from localities.

He said polling station for Saphon village was set up at Sheikh Mohammadi, which was around five kilometers away.

He asked how voters could go to polling stations several kilometers away from their houses by foot in scorching heat.

A supporter of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl said ECP should have make transportation arrangements for voters following which candidates could have been barred from transporting vehicles.

Section 44 of the election code of conduct provides that in no case, the political parties, candidates or their supporters should establish camps near the polling station on the polling day.

The code of conduct further provides that canvassing for votes, soliciting of votes, persuading any elector not to vote at the election or for a particular candidate is prohibited within a radius of 400 yards of the polling station.

Throughout the day, supporters continued to convince voters within the prescribed area of the polling stations in different areas.

At women polling stations, supporters of parties were seen pressuring women to cast vote for their candidates.

At one women polling station in Kaga Wala area, women supporters of JUI-F were openly asking women to vote for book saying it was ‘book of Allah.’

Supporters of other parties complained that the polling staff had turned a blind eye to this violation of the code of conduct.

“As women voting has been held here for the first time, they were not trained in casting vote and were befooled by JUI supporters who are asking them to vote of book, which is their symbol,” said a member of Jamaat-i-Islami.

A rickshaw parked outside the said polling stations was constantly blaring out Islamic messages through a stereo system and addressing the voters to favour book while casting vote.

When asked why they had not been removing auto-rickshaw, police officials on duty at the said station said as law and order situation was precarious in the area, they did not want to create any controversy.

Several voters in Naudia Payan area complained that women supporters of a candidate of Muttahida Deeni Mahaz had been forcing women voters to cast vote for their candidate in PK-4 constituency. They alleged that all their complaints to polling staff fell on deaf ears. Their rivals denied the charge and told Dawn that they had been receiving maximum female votes, therefore, supporters of PPP and ANP had been levelling false allegations. Polling camps of several political parties were set up in close vicinity to polling stations, especially in rural areas. While the ECP had directed political parties not to issue slips to voters carrying their serial numbers and receive the same by sending text messages to the number 8300 through cellphones, the parties violated it and complained that as ECP system of text messaging was not functioning properly, they had to issue slips.