ISLAMABAD: A sub-committee of the parliamentary committee on poll reforms on Tuesday suggested that laws should be amended to make violation of the code of conduct by candidates or political parties during the elections as an “offence”.
This was disclosed by chairman of the sub-committee Zahid Hamid while talking to a group of reporters after presiding over a meeting here on Tuesday.
Mr Hamid said that committee members had suggested imposition of heavy fines of up to Rs50 million on violators of the code of conduct which is announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) before every election. Further details, he said, would be finalised in the next meeting.
He said the committee had asked the ECP to conduct a mock exercise for voting by overseas Pakistanis and submit a report before the committee by Oct 13. He said employees of the Pakistan High Commission in the United Kingdom would be asked to participate as voters in the mock exercise. The ECP would conduct the drill through both “voice vote” and “postal ballots” and would apprise the committee about the results.
Moreover, he said, the committee members had also recommended that the punishment for committing corrupt practices during elections should also be enhanced. The committee has recommended that the present one-year imprisonment for those committing “corrupt practices” should be increased to two years and in case of serious nature of the crime the imprisonment period could be extended to three years.
Similarly, he said, the committee had suggested to enhance the amount of fine from Rs5,000 to Rs100,000.
The next meeting of the committee will be held on Oct 6.
Mr Hamid had earlier stated that the committee wanted the ECP to carry out the mock drill after seeing the results of the experiment of using Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) during the recently-held by-polls on a National Assembly seat in Haripur. He said a lot of issues had surfaced after the experiment of EVMs in some of the polling stations.
The ECP had constituted a high-level committee under its Additional Director General (Elections) Masood Malik to suggest a mechanism for voting by overseas Pakistanis. The committee has forwarded 16 recommendations to the ECP.
According to the ECP, the total number of Pakistanis living abroad is about 6.7 million but only 3.7 million have the National Identity Cards for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) which would make them eligible to vote. Out of these, there are 1.7 million Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia and 1.2 million each in the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Other countries with a large concentration of Pakistanis include the US (0.9 million), Canada (0.3 million), Oman (0.2 million), Kuwait (150,000), Greece (90,000), Germany (78,000), France and Scotland (60,000 each), Denmark (30,000) and Australia (27,000).
During the deliberations prior to the 2013 general polls, the option of setting up polling stations in embassies and consulates in over a dozen countries where large numbers of Pakistanis were living or working also came under discussion.
It was observed that some countries might not allow a huge gathering of people for the election.
Technical experts believe that a decision made in haste on a mechanism that would enable the overseas Pakistanis to vote would open room for manipulation of results in many constituencies.
Published in Dawn, September 30th , 2015