ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has directed the caretaker governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) to ensure immediate termination of services of all heads of institutions appointed on political grounds and to send their lists to the commission forthwith.
In a set of guidelines issued for the caretakers in the two provinces, the ECP has also sought vacation of the government residential facilities from former chief ministers and their advisers, provincial ministers and members of provincial assemblies of Punjab and KP, besides ensuring withdrawal of official vehicles from them.
“Furthermore, the dignitaries shall be provided security/protocol as per their entitlement and any extra deployment of security/protocol be withdrawn from them forthwith,” the guidelines read.
The caretaker governments have also been asked to assist the ECP in holding elections in accordance with the law.
The commission referred to section 230(1)(b) of the Elections Act, 2017, which defines functions of the caretaker governments.
Issues set of guidelines for caretakers in Punjab and KP
The commission asked the caretakers to ensure compliance of all notifications, directives and provisions as laid down in Section 230 of the Act, and not to post or transfer any public official after the issuance of this notification without prior approval in writing of the ECP.
It further said that that all kinds of recruitments in any ministry, division, department or institution under the provincial governments and local governments of Punjab and KP were banned with immediate effect, except recruitments by the Provincial Public Service Commissions and those government organisations where test and interviews had already been conducted.
The caretaker governments have also been barred from announcing or executing any kind of development schemes in Punjab and KP, except those which have been ongoing and approved before the issuance of this notification.
“Moreover, the provincial governments and local governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa shall not issue tenders of such schemes till culmination of general elections of both assemblies,” it said.
The commission also said that development funds relating to local government institutions of Punjab and KP and cantonment boards falling in the jurisdiction of the two provinces shall stand frozen with immediate effect till the announcement of the results of the general elections.
The guidelines said that the ECP was mandated with the constitutional duty to organise and conduct elections in terms of Article 218(3) of the Constitution and to make such arrangements as were necessary to ensure that elections were conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with the law and that corrupt practices were guarded against.
“It has become imperative that the Election Commission shall take all necessary steps under the Constitution and prevalent law for smooth conduct of general elections to the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” the letter reads.
The directives have been issued by the ECP in exercise of the powers conferred upon it under Articles 218(3), 220 of the Constitution, Sections 4, 5, 8(c) read with Section 230 of the Elections Act, 2017, and as supported by the Supreme Court judgment in the Workers’ Party case.
Section 230 (1) of the Elections Act requires a caretaker government to perform its functions to attend to day-to-day matters which are necessary to run the affairs of the government, assist the commission to hold elections in accordance with law, restrict itself to activities that are of routine, non-controversial and urgent, in the public interest and reversible by the future government elected after the elections, and be impartial to every person and political party.
Sub-section 2 bars the caretakers from taking major policy decisions except on urgent matters, taking any decision or making a policy that may have effect or pre-empt the exercise of authority by the future elected government entering into major contract or undertaking if it is detrimental to public interest, entering into major international negotiations with any foreign country or international agency or signing or ratifying any international binding instrument except in an exceptional case, making promotions or major appointments of public officials and attempting to influence the elections or do or cause to be done anything which may, in any manner, influence or adversely affect the free and fair elections.
Under sub-section 3, members of a caretaker governments are required to submit their statements of assets and liabilities to the ECP within three days from the date of assumption of office.
Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2023