ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is set to re-issue the schedule for local government elections in Punjab and Sindh to incorporate in their code of conduct a clause barring public office-holders and other members of the national and provincial assemblies from campaigning for candidates.

The code of conduct for the high-profile by-elections for National Assembly seats in Lahore and Lodhran and all subsequent polls would also be revised, an ECP official told Dawn on Wednesday.

Know more: SC bars govt leaders from poll campaigning

Being a member of the National Assembly, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan is among those to be affected by the clause revived by the Supreme Court on Tuesday. Therefore he will not be able to attend rallies of his party’s candidates.

When contacted, PTI lawmaker Dr Arif Alvi said he had not read the court’s judgment but added that it seemed inconceivable that opposition legislators could be deprived of their fundamental rights.


Lawmakers to be barred from campaigning for candidates


“I am not in government and do not control any development funds. How can I be stopped from taking part in the election campaign of my party’s candidates?” Dr Alvi, a member of the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms, said he would never accept this restriction. “These are party-based polls and nobody can encroach upon my fundamental rights,” he said.

Information Minister Pervez Rashid was not available for comments.

The ECP issues the code of conduct along with the schedule for any elections it conducts, including the clause barring public office-holders from visiting the constituencies. However, legislators were included in the list of people barred from canvassing for votes for the first time prior to the local government polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The bar was challenged by a PTI leader in Punjab and the clause of the code of conduct was struck down by the Lahore High Court, allowing all public office-holders, including the prime minister, chief ministers and their cabinet colleagues, to participate in the campaigns.

The decision was challenged by the ECP in the Supreme Court which set aside the LHC verdict.

On the basis of the apex court’s judgment, the ECP intends to include in the code of conduct the clause barring public office-holders from campaigning.

Meanwhile, to ensure strict implementation of the code in the local government elections in the federal capital, Punjab and Sindh, the ECP has decided to take an undertaking from the relevant authorities that funds under any programme or project will not be released on the recommendation of elected representatives.

Letters to this effect are being sent to the federal secretary for planning, the chairman of the Punjab planning and development board and Sindh’s additional chief secretary for development.

The ECP has also declined a request from Lahore’s district coordination officer to allow some recruitment in the health department. According to a statement released by the ECP, the DCO has been asked to withhold the recruitment till completion of the election process.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2015

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