ISLAMABAD: The Elec­tion Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has barred public office-holders from using public money for self-projection to woo electorates ahead of general elections.

The ECP has sent letters to provincial chief secretaries pointing out that the commission is busy with preparations for the coming general elections and reports from various stakeholders are being received against public office holders, including ministers, members of the national and provincial assemblies and party leaders announcing development schemes and fixing inaugural plaques with their names for their projection and for wooing the voters ahead of general elections.

“Understandably development schemes such as hospitals, schools, roads, tube wells etc are executed through public money, therefore self-projection through public exchequer is by no means acceptable,” reads the letter, a copy of which is available with Dawn.

The ECP conveys its decision to ban fixing such plaques with the names of ministers, MNAs, MPAs, chairmen and Nazims of local government or other office holders in connection with development schemes. It says the decision had been taken under Article 218 (3) of the Constitution in order to discourage such activities and provide level-playing field and congenial environment to all the prospective candidates and political parties before the general elections.

The commission has also banned launching of any publicity campaign by the government in print and electronic media with public money.

The letter issued with the signatures of ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad has directed that the plaques placed after March 1, showing the names of ministers, MNAs, MPAs, local leaders, etc, be removed forthwith and warned against fixation of any further plaques in connection with any development scheme till the conclusion of election process. “In this regard, express directions to all quarters under your administrative control be conveyed immediately,” the letter reads.

The ECP has also barred any publicity campaign in the form of development projects, inauguration by any party or government at the expense of public money in the print and electronic media with immediate effect. It has warned that any violation of the directions will entail a strict action against those responsible.

When contacted, an ECP official said that development schemes had not been banned but only personal projection by spending money from public exchequer had been barred to ensure holding of free and fair elections in accordance with Article 218 (3) of the Constitution.

He said a full-fledged ban on all development schemes will be placed with the announcement of the election schedule expected around the end of next month.

Meanwhile, Tuesday (April 3) is the last day for filing representations against delimitation of constituencies.

Sources in the ECP said as many as 729 representations have so far been received, including 368 from Punjab and the federal capital, 188 from Sindh, 102 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the federally administered tribal areas and 71 from Balochistan.

The number may reach around 1,000 on Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2018

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