Bilawal among ‘public office’ holders ordered to leave GB

Published November 7, 2020
In this Oct 31 file photo, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addresses in Gilgit Baltistan. — DawnNewsTV
In this Oct 31 file photo, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addresses in Gilgit Baltistan. — DawnNewsTV

GILGIT: The Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Court on Friday ordered Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, federal minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Ali Amin Gandapur and other public office holders to leave the region within 72 hours for violating the code of conduct for elections.

The order was passed on PPP Gilgit-Baltistan vice president Jamil Ahmed’s petition with the GB Chief Court pleading to expel federal ministers and public office holders from GB till the conclusion of election on Nov 15 for violating elections code of conduct.

As the code of conduct under the Election Act of 2017 bars only public office holders, including the president and prime minister, chairman and deputy chairman of senate, speaker and deputy speaker of an assembly, federal ministers, ministers of state, governors, chief ministers, provincial ministers, advisers to the premier and chief ministers, mayors, chairman, nazim and their deputies, from taking part in election drive in any manner whatsoever, the court order refers to the definition of public office holder as per National Accountability (NAB) Ordinance 1999 that includes member of parliament as well.

Chief Court says PPP leader, ministers and others violated code of conduct for elections

A two-member bench of the GB Chief Court comprising Chief Judge Malik Haq Nawaz and Ali Baig ordered to expel from the boundary of GB all those individuals who fall in the ambit of para 18 of the code of conduct framed for the Gilgit-Baltistan general elections 2020, within three days of passing of the order.

The court order says public office holder “has not been defined as who will be placed in the category of public office holder”.

This term has been defined in the NAB ordinance, it mentions while also barring the elected members of assemblies and Senate from running election campaign.

While addressing a press conference here in Gilgit on Friday, GB Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Raja Shahbaz Khan asked the PPP chairman and federal minister Ali Amin Gandapur and other public office holders to leave Gilgit-Baltistan to implement court order.

Mr Khan said a total of 130 notices had been issued to leaders of different political parties, including PPP, PML-N, PTI, PML-Q and JUI-F, for violating election code of conduct. He asserted that leaders of all political parties needed to obey and implement the elections code of conduct and Election Act 2017.

“I appeal to all the concerned to go from GB themselves without damaging the environment,” he said.

The chief election commissioner has said police and GB scouts would perform election duties, while the army would have no role in the upcoming election. Of the 1,234 polling stations in Gilgit-Baltistan, 415 polling stations have already been declared ‘highly sensitive’.

Mr Khan rejected the pre-poll rigging allegations and said all measures were being taken to ensure free, fair and transparent election in GB.

‘Bilawal is not public office holder’

Meanwhile, PPP’s GB president Advocate Amjad Hussain has said Mr Bhutto-Zardari is not a public office holder and the election code of conduct allows him to participate in the election campaign.

The GB election commission had adopted Election Act 2017, which did not bar Mr Bhutto-Zardari from leading the election campaign, Advocate Hussain said while addressing a press conference here in Gilgit.

He was accompanied by other office-bearers of the party Jamil Ahmed, Sadia Danish and Javed Hussain.

Calling the move unprecedented, Advocate Hussain said members of the National Assembly and Senate of Pakistan had never been barred from taking part in the election campaigns in the history of Pakistan.

He said it seemed the focus of the chief election commissioner was the PPP leadership.

The para 18 of the code of conduct under the Election Act, 2017, says: “The President, Prime Minister, Chairman/Deputy Chairman Senate, Speaker/Deputy Speaker of an Assembly, Federal Ministers, Ministers of State, Governors, Chief Ministers, Provincial Ministers, Advisers to the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers, Mayors/Chairman/Nazim, their deputies and other public office holders shall not participate in election campaign in any manner whatsoever. This provision will be applicable to the caretaker setup.”

He said the Election Act stopped the PM and ministers, but the CEC had never sent them any notice for violating the code of conduct. He further said the leadership of a banned outfit was working in one of the constituencies to support their candidate.

About legislation on Khalisa Sarkar and other issues of Haq-i-Malkiyat, he said the PPP needed 12 seats.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2020


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