PESHAWAR: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday imposed a fine of Rs50,000 each on Prime Minister Imran Khan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and three other holders of public offices for addressing a public meeting in Malakand in violation of the code of conduct devised for local government elections.
Malakand’s district monitoring officer (DMO) Ziaur Rehman issued five separate orders, directing the prime minister, chief minister, federal ministers Murad Saeed and Ali Haider Zaidi and provincial minister Shakeel Khan to deposit the fine till March 27. Mr Rehman stated that under Section 234(5) of the Elections Act, 2017 the prime minister and the four other functionaries had the right to file an appeal before the ECP within three days of the order.
The prime minister and others had addressed the rally in Malakand on March 20 despite the ECP’s letters addressed to them, asking them to refrain from doing so.
Earlier, Prime Minister Khan was fined Rs50,000 each by the respective DMOs for addressing public meetings in Lower Dir and Swat.
In a notice issued on the 20th, the DMO had asked the prime minister to appear in person before him or send a counsel instead on March 22. But when he did not turn up on the 22nd he was asked to appear on March 24. However, Mr Khan neither appeared in person nor sent a counsel.
“And whereas, perusal of various (pieces of) evidence comprising videos, photos, coupled with media reports and deliberately non-provision of response on behalf of Mr Imran Khan, it has been established that the respondent (Mr Khan) has participated in Jalsa/public gathering at tehsil Dargai on 20-03-2022,” the order said.
It added that Mr Khan also used government machinery for political campaigning of the PTI candidate, which was a sheer violation of Clause 16(2) of the revised code of conduct as amended by the ECP through an order on March 10.
The revised code of conduct bars public office holders — including the president, prime minister, chairman, deputy chairman of senate, speaker/deputy speaker of an assembly, federal ministers, ministers of state, governors, chief ministers, provincial ministers and advisers to the prime minister, mayors/chairman/nazim, and their deputies — from participating in campaigning.
On Wednesday, the Malakand’s DMO issued a notice to Pakistan Peoples Party’s chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, asking him to explain his position on March 25 as he had violated the code of conduct by attending a public meeting in Malakand.
The DMO had earlier issued an advisory to him, advising him not to attend the said public meeting.
A senior ECP official, when contacted, said that though the law apparently provides for a maximum fine of Rs50,000 for violation of the code of conduct, it was only restricted to the violation for the first time.
He said if the code of conduct is violated by someone more than once, the ECP under Article 218(3) had all the powers to act against him.
Answering a question, he said Prime Minister Khan had violated the code of conduct for a second time in a few days in two districts of KP and the ECP might summon him upon receiving a report from the provincial election commissioner.
He recalled that there was an instance of the ECP disqualifying an electoral candidate over violation of code of conduct.
He disclosed that Federal Railways Minister Azam Swati and Ahmad Hussain Shah, an MPA, had already been summoned to appear before the ECP on March 28, after the violation of the code of conduct for the second time.
Iftikhar A. Khan in Islamabad also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2022