• Commission says mechanism in place to check expense limit violations
• Polls to be held on previous delimitation, aligned with upcoming reforms

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday ruled out any delay in the general elections in the country, saying that the polls will be held before October 11, if the national and two provincial assemblies were not dissolved before expiry of their term on August 12.

Speaking at a press conference, ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan and Special Secretary Zafar Iqbal Hussain said the ECP was fully prepared to hold elections be it within 60 days or 90 days.

Mr Hussain said the judiciary had been requested to spare judicial officers to perform duties as district returning officers (DROs) and returning officers (ROs). Watermark papers have been procured for ballot papers, and other essential election materials have been obtained, draft list of polling stations and data bank of polling staff has been prepared, and coordination with presses for printing of ballot papers and nomination papers has been completed.

Answering a question, he ruled out the possibility of fresh delimitation of constituencies prior to the electoral exercise and said elections will be held under the previous census and delimitation.

He said elections will be held in line with the electoral reforms expected to be shortly approved by the parliament.

Responding to a question about the trend of electoral candidates exceeding the limits of expenses set by the law, he said that a monitoring mechanism was in place, and there would be a check on those violating the law.

ECP Secretary Mr Khan, while answering a question about the use of black money in polls, conceded that black money had been plaguing the system for decades, and rectification was not possible overnight. He noted that taxation laws need to be improved to address the issue.

Asked if the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), which the ECP ruled had received prohibited funding, will be allotted an election symbol, he refused to comment, saying the matter was sub judice.

ECP Political Finance Wing Director General Masood Sherwani, while briefing reporters, revealed that the ECP has indigenously designed and developed a political finance management information system, which is dynamic, secure and integrated.

He said the wing, using the system, would be in a position to present forensic-level data before the ECP with evidence.

He said a feature of the system would be a data cross-check process, under which data of electoral candidates will be obtained from the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), State Bank of Pakistan, Federal Board of Revenue, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, and other relevant institutions on a non-reciprocal basis.

He said data analytical tools had also been developed. A set of legal reforms had also been proposed and placed before the ECP, which were then forwarded to the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms, he added.

He said guiding principles for chartered accountants involved in the preparation of statements of assets of political parties had been set, and a standard prescribed for audit reports of the chartered accountants in the proposed amendments.

He added that one of the proposals was to bind the political parties to maintain certain books. Statements of assets of political parties will be placed on the ECP’s website, he said. The ECP secretary, while answering a question, said around 60 amendments to the elections act had been proposed by the ECP.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2023

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