LAHORE: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) ban on initiating new development projects is going to hit ventures planned under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the resultant delay will add billions of rupees to their execution cost, cautions the government.

The ruling PML-N is approaching the top election watchdog for clarifying the situation and getting the restrictions relaxed in case of CPEC projects.

“The ECP ban will also hurt the CPEC projects going on for the last four years and will increase their cost by billions of rupees,” PM’s special advisor on legal initiatives Barrister Zafarullah said.

Alleging victimisation of one party (PML-N) prior to the polls, he told at a seminar on Pre-requisites of Timely and Transparent 2018 Elections late on Saturday that for the first time an official notification [by the ECP] said that attempts of pre-poll rigging were underway so it had to slap a ban on recruitment and execution of new development projects.

Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal told Dawn by phone on Sunday that his ministry was writing to the ECP, seeking a clarification regarding the restriction and the CPEC projects. The ministry, he said, would try to convey the election authority about the financial losses the ban could lead to as far as foreign investment was concerned.

Meanwhile, the sitting chaired by former governor Shahid Hamid called for efforts to hold the coming general elections in accordance with provisions of the Constitution and in a peaceful atmosphere.

He said all political parties were against putting a ceiling on election expenses. He also claimed that all parties, including the PTI and the PPP, had agreed on the qualification of a party head that had recently been passed by the parliament [later quashed by the Supreme Court], but the opposition parties changed their stance after the Panama Papers case.

Shahid Hamid talked of lack of trust among state institutions and termed it the biggest issue in the current circumstances.

He warned that no one would accept election results if the situation persisted and called for promoting the culture of tolerance before the polls.

PML-N leader Muhammad Mehdi said the democratic project set-up progressed during the last decade but in terms of elections the situation seemed to be leading towards what the masses had witnessed in 2002 when controlled democracy was introduced.

He said the apex court had lauded the electoral exercises of 2008 and 2013, but alleged that efforts were afoot to reintroduce “controlled” democracy. He warned that the country would be unlucky if transparent and fair election process could not be ensured.

ANP’s Ehsan Wyne said democratic culture could not be promoted by barring the head of a political party from taking part in elections.

PTI’s Ijaz Chaudhry said how transparent elections could be ensured when even SHOs were appointed after interviews at Jati Umra, the residence of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Punjab University Vice-chancellor Dr Zikriya Zakir, Punjab Higher Education Chairman Dr Nazamuddin, and Altaf Hsan Qureshee highlighted basic requirements for holding fair elections.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2018

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