ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday issued a notice to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan for violating the secrecy of ballot.

The commission has summoned Mr Khan to appear before it in person or through his counsel on July 30 to explain his position.

Mr Khan, flanked by his friends and supporters, including Zulfi Bokhari, openly cast his vote in the NA-53 constituency where he was contesting the election against former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party’s Syed Sibtul Haider, brother of former Senate chairman Syed Nayyar Bokahri.

Instead of going behind the voting screen to cast his vote in private, the PTI chief preferred to publicly stamp the ballot paper placing it on the table of the election officer, with TV cameras filming him. Surprisingly, the presiding officer and other polling staff did not object to the violation.

Warns media against airing live media talk of political leaders and candidates

Under Section 185 (a) of the Elections Act 2017, an election official or a candidate, election agent or polling agent or a voter attending a polling station or any person attending at the counting of votes is guilty of an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees or with both, if he fails to maintain secrecy or aids in violating the secrecy of voting.

Earlier, informed sources said the matter had been brought to the notice of the ECP and the TV footage showing Mr Khan stamping the ballot paper was also made available to the commission.

PTI leader Faisal Javed, while defending his party chairman, said Mr Khan was not at fault for the mistake during the casting of his vote, adding that media personnel were present there and it was the job of the polling station’s staff to stop them.

The ECP also took serious notice of live talk of politicians, including Imran Khasn, PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmad.

The commission also warned the media against airing any such live media talk of political leaders and candidates and later decided to issue notices to the media houses for violating the code of conduct.

Earlier talking to reporters after casting his vote in Dhok Jilani, the PTI chairman urged people to step out of their comfort zone to vote for the well-being of future generations and prosperity of the country. “I am not asking people to vote for the PTI. This is the most significant election in the history of the country. This is an opportunity to defeat the two parties that have been taking turns to rule for the last 30 years,” he said.

In reply to a question about India’s concern over the PTI coming to power, Mr Khan said India’s only agenda was to discredit and weaken the Pakistan Army and Nawaz Sharif had facilitated India in this regard. “India knows Imran Khan will look after the interest of Pakistan and not that of India. My prime concern is well-being of my people. My loyalty is not money but my country,” he said.

In response to another question about the elections being manipulated, he said the “international establishment” had started discrediting the polls when their process was not even complete.

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2018

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