ISLAMABAD: The crucial phase of the processes leading to the general elections — including the scrutiny of nomination papers to exclude ineligible candidates from the race — starts on Tuesday, a day after returning officers (ROs) completed the process of receiving nomination papers from prospective candidates.

After several hiccups over controversial nomination forms, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) revised the last date of submission thrice before finally deciding on June 11.

According to ECP spokesman Altaf Ahmad Khan, the scrutiny cell which has been set up at the ECP headquarters has already started verifying details provided by the candidates.

He said that so far particulars of 12,000 candidates had been sent to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and other relevant institutions — out of which 7,500 had been verified with the help of the online scrutiny system.

He claimed that details of several candidates had been declared “dubious”. Mr Khan added that the information was being passed on to ROs to use during the scrutiny period (June 12 to 19).

Particulars of 12,000 candidates were sent to NAB and other institutions, out of which 7,500 have been verified

A senior official of the ECP told Dawn that under Section 62 of the Elections Act, 2017, any voter of a constituency might file objections to the candidature of a candidate of that constituency who had been nominated or whose name had been included in the party list submitted by a political party for the election to an assembly before the RO within the period specified by the commission for the scrutiny of nomination papers.

He said that the candidates, their election agents, the proposers, seconders, another person authorised in this behalf by each candidate and a voter who had filed an objection might attend the scrutiny of nomination papers. The RO shall give them reasonable opportunity to examine all nomination papers delivered to them.

The official added that a voter who has filed an objection to the candidature of a candidate shall only attend the scrutiny of the nomination paper of that candidate. The RO shall, in the presence of the persons attending the scrutiny, examine the nomination papers and decide any objection raised by any such person to any candidature.

He explained that the RO may, for the purpose of scrutiny, require any authority or organisation, including a financial institution, to produce any document or record or to furnish any information as may be necessary to determine facts relating to an objection to the candidature of a candidate.

He said that under Section 60 (7), the RO, while scrutinising nomination papers of a candidate, shall not ask any question which has no nexus with the information given in the nomination paper or has not arisen from the objections raised by any person or from information.

The declaration submitted under sub-section (2) of Section 60 shall only be questioned by the RO if there is tangible material to the contrary available on record.

The ECP official further explained that the RO may, on his own or upon an objection, conduct a summary enquiry and may reject a nomination paper if he is satisfied that the candidate is not qualified to be elected as a member, the proposer or the seconder is not qualified to subscribe to the nomination paper, any provision of Section 60 or Section 61 has not been complied with or the candidate has submitted a declaration or statement which is false or incorrect in any material particular or the signature of the proposer or the seconder is not genuine.

Election observers

The ECP has called for expediting the process of issuing visas to international election observers.

The ECP’s request was conveyed to the relevant quarters during a meeting held with ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad in the chair. The meeting was attended by officials from the ministries of foreign affairs and interior, and representatives from the FBR and security institutions.

According to a press release, the ECP said it had been decided that international observers would be issued visas for four to six weeks and will be allowed to observe the polling process, count of votes and consolidation of results at the polling stations.

The meeting was informed that a code of conduct for international election observers would be ready in a couple of days.

Meanwhile, the ECP has appointed 132 district monitoring officers and 592 monitoring teams throughout the country to monitor the election campaigns for the 2018 general polls.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2018