PESHAWAR: In a major development ahead of the forthcoming general elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan has directed the caretaker chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to immediately sack his ministers, advisers and special assistants “involved in politics” to ensure free and fair electoral exercise in the province.
“The ECP has desired to request you while keeping the interim cabinet members at minimum to review the appointments [in light of the criteria as laid down in the election laws] and to de-notify such ministers, advisers and special assistants involved in politics immediately so that free, fair and transparent elections are ensured for future,” read a letter written by the ECP to KP Chief Minister Mohammad Azam Khan.
The ECP said it was bound by Article 218(3) of the Constitution to organise and conduct elections in a free, fair, transparent and impartial manner and that the caretaker government had a special role to perform in help it ensure that a level-playing field is provided to all stakeholders, including contesting candidates of political parties, to enable them to exercise their capacities for the good of voters without fear or favor and without let or hindrance of any sort.
It added that the caretaker government, including cabinet members, advisers, special assistants and other relevant functionaries, could only provide an “objective environment” without being involved in politics and election campaigns against the violation of provisions of Section 230 (1)(d) and 2(g) of the Elections Act, 2017.
Says move will ensure free, fair polls in province
The ECP regretted that it had come to its notice through media and other sources that some ministers, advisers and special assistants in the current interim cabinet were appointed on the basis of political affiliations.
“As an example this manifestation was clearly visible in the case of Mr Shahid Khattak, former minister of KP interim government, who was seen on media and found indulgent explicitly in political activities. Some others were seen in the media accepting their party affiliation. On the cognisance of the ECP, the said minister resigned from his portfolio. This attitude of some ministers, advisers, special assistants and other functionaries is against the very spirit of the caretaker government, Constitution, and Elections Act, 2017,” it said in the letter.
The ECP said the government should give top priority to the matter.
On Sunday, 52 former MPAs from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s KP chapter approached the ECP seeking a level-playing field for all political parties in the coming general elections.
A letter written by PTI KP chief Ali Amin Khan Gandapur and signed by 52 ex-MPAs read that the PTI was the country’s single largest political party despite all government efforts to “undercut and undermine” its popularity.
“The conduct of KP caretaker government from its inception has raised serious concerns about its impartiality and intentions towards PTI. This is evident not only from its pressers and statements but also from the very composition of the entire cabinet, which consists almost exclusively of nominees from parties of Pakistan Democratic Movement and their allies like PPP and ANP,” it read.
The PTI letter said that “admission along with the blatant interference and alleged corruption by the office of the governor” was made by the representatives of the ANP, PPP and PML-N during talk shows on news channels.
It alleged that the caretaker ministers openly campaigned against the PTI compromising the level-playing field necessary in the caretaker setup for it to have the credibility to hold free and fair elections in the province.
Published in Dawn, Aug 1st, 2023