ISLAMABAD: The Elec-tion Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has proposed a bar on political parties from collecting money from aspiring electoral candidates.

“No political party shall receive any amount from any of its prospective candidate in the name of party fund for issuance of party ticket to that candidate,” a draft code of conduct prepared by the ECP for the coming general elections reads.

The draft code, a copy of which is available with Dawn, will be discussed with the political parties having representation in parliament at a consultative meeting convened by the ECP on May 31.

As a normal practice, all the major political parties collect a huge amount from the aspiring candidates seeking party tickets for a national or provincial assembly seat in the general elections in the name of ‘application fee’. The fee is non-refundable and goes to the ‘party fund’ irrespective of whether the application is accepted or rejected.

It is yet to be seen how political parties will react to the clause of the proposed code of conduct, especially those that have already raised money from ticket applicants. If the clause remains intact in the final code of conduct, the amount collected from the prospective candidates will probably have to be refunded.

Draft code of conduct to be discussed by commission and political parties on 31st

According to the proposed rules of the game, the District Returning Officer and Returning Officer shall be responsible to ensure implementation of the code of conduct through the district and local administration, district police or other law-enforcement agencies, in the area of their jurisdictions, and violation by any candidate or political party shall be tantamount to malpractices as per laws and rules and shall entail legal action, including disqualification of the candidate.

The political parties, candidates and election agents shall abide by all directions, instructions and regulations issued by the ECP from time to time relating to the smooth conduct of the elections, maintenance of public order and morality, and shall refrain from maligning the election commission in any form whatsoever, violation of which will entail contempt of court proceedings.

The political parties, contesting candidates, election agents and their supporters or other persons shall not encourage or enter into formal or informal agreement / arrangement / understanding debarring men, women and transgender persons from becoming a candidate for an election or exercising their right of vote in an election. The political parties shall emphasise and encourage women’s participation in the election process. Violation will be treated as a corrupt practice.

The political parties and candidates will not solicit the support or assistance of any person in the service of Pakistan or a province or semi-government institution or any public office to promote or hinder the election of a contesting candidate in any manner. Violation will be treated as an illegal practice.

The contesting candidates and election agents shall dissuade their workers and sympathisers from destroying any ballot paper or any official mark on the ballot paper. Violation will be treated as an illegal practice.

The election expenses of a candidate shall include the expenditure incurred by any person or a political party on behalf of the candidate and will be deemed to be the election expenses incurred by the candidate himself.

The president, caretaker prime minister and chief ministers and their cabinet members have been included in the list of public office-holders barred from participating in the election campaign.

No political party shall run a publicity campaign in print and electronic media at the cost of the public exchequer. Issuing of advertisements at the cost of public exchequer in the newspapers and other media and misuse of official mass media during the election period for partisan coverage of political news and publicity by the federal, provincial and local governments shall be prohibited.

The political parties, candidates and election agents may exercise door-to-door canvassing and, besides party manifesto, voter’s ‘parchee’ containing complete detail of voters as per electoral rolls can also be distributed during such door-to-door canvassing provided that the distribution of voter’s parchee shall be prohibited on the polling day and such parchee shall not bear the name and election symbol of the candidate and its appearance shall in no case reflect any political party.

There shall be a complete ban on hoardings, wall-chalking and billboards. Violation will be treated as an illegal practice.

The political parties or candidates or election agents shall, to the extent possible, ensure that the participants of processions do not carry such articles which may be misused by undesirable elements, especially when a crowd becomes charged.

The use of effigies purporting to represent leaders or members of other political parties, and burning such effigies in public, thereby arousing sentiments of the participants of the meeting or procession shall be avoided at all costs.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2018