ECP issues notice to Bilawal over Larkana visit before by-poll

Updated October 14, 2019

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PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari visited Larkana on Saturday to spearhead the election campaign of his party’s candidate in the by-polls in the Sindh Assembly constituency PS-11. — DawnNewsTV/File
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari visited Larkana on Saturday to spearhead the election campaign of his party’s candidate in the by-polls in the Sindh Assembly constituency PS-11. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has issued notices to Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and other party leaders for allegedly violating its code of conduct by visiting a provincial assembly constituency in Larkana (PS-11) ahead of the by-election.

The notices were issued by the regional election commissioner, Larkana, Rana Abdul Ghaffar, on Sunday, a day after Mr Bhutto-Zardari and other PPP leaders visited Larkana and addressed rallies in support of the party candidate Jamil Soomro.

In a sharp reaction to the ECP’s action, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, a spokesman for the PPP chairman, declared that “no law can stop the party chairman from visiting his home constituency”.

“How a notice can be sent to a member of the National Assembly for going to his own constituency?” asked Mr Khokhar, while talking to Dawn here on Sunday.

Lashing out at the ECP, Mr Khokhar said the ECP could not restore its “lost credibility” by such actions. The ECP, he said, had yet to answer questions about the rigged elections held in July last year.

“What is the logic behind the fact that army could be inside and outside polling stations but an MNA could not go to his constituency?” he asked.

Besides Mr Bhutto-Zardari, the ECP has also issued notices to Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister and president PPP Sindh chapter Nisar Khuhro, provincial ministers Nasir Shah, Suhail Anwer Siyal and Mukesh Chawla, MNA Khursheed Junejo and a number of other PPP leaders for allegedly violating the Code of Conduct of the ECP by visiting the Larkana’s constituency of PS-11 where by-elections on a provincial assembly seat are scheduled to be held on Oct 17. The ECP has also issued a notice to PPP candidate Jamil Soomro.

The ECP had announced by-elections in the PS-11 Larkana-II constituency after unseating of MPA Moazzam Abbasi of the Grand Democratic Alliance by the Supreme Court in August.

“Being a member of the National Assembly, you were fully aware about the announcement of the schedule of the by-elections,” says the notice issued to the PPP chairman, who is an MNA from NA-200 Larkana.

Mr Khokhar, however, claimed that the PPP chairman had not yet received any notice from the ECP. He said the party had decided to challenge the notice whenever received as well as the rule that it considered absurd. He said there was no such law banning elected representatives from visiting their constituencies and the ECP had imposed this ban through its own rules. Since it was not a law, the legislators could not do anything in the parliament and the ECP was the most appropriate forum to challenge it, he added.

The spokesman for the PPP chairman said Mr Bhutto-Zardari had not visited Larkana as “part of any election campaign” and had gone to his Naudero home situated in the constituency from where he had been elected as member of the National Assembly. He also denied that the PPP chairman had addressed any election rally in the provincial assembly constituency where by-polls were being held, stating that two provincial assembly constituencies fell within a National Assembly constituency.

Meanwhile, District Returning Office Nadeem Haidar confirmed the issuance of the notices to the PPP leaders, saying the notices had been served through police.

“The ECP has taken notice of your visit to PS-11 Larkana-II on Saturday [12 October] and addressing of a rally and participating in election campaign where by-election programme had been announced which is considered a violation of para-17 of the Code of Conduct issued for the conduct of election in Larkana,” says the notice.

“The regional election commissioner referred to the available documentary evidence collected by a monitoring team as well as the media reports hold you accountable” for the alleged violation of the Code of Conduct issued by the ECP, it says.

Through the notice, the ECP asked the PPP members to explain their position within a day of the receipt of this notice warning that “otherwise a disciplinary action in the light of Section 167 and 234 of Election Act 2017 read with Rule 171 of Election Rules will be initiated” against them and the candidate.

M.B. Kalhoro from Larkana also contributed to the report

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2019