ISLAMABAD: Just hours before the expiry of deadline set for filing objections to the proposed changes to the Election Rules 2017, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) apprised the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of its reservations over a new condition pertaining to election expenses.

The ECP had published a set of proposed amendments on Sept 22 and sought suggestions and objections to it from political parties by Oct 7.

In a letter sent to ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan on Saturday, PPP Secretary General Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari expressed serious concern over the condition being introduced in the proposed Form-68 that requires contesting candidates to provide the total election expenses incurred (under Section 211(2) of the Elections Act, 2017) by a party.

Highlighting what he called ‘contradictions’ in the proposed amendments, Mr Bokhari noted that on the one hand the rules set a 60-day limit for political parties to submit details of election expenses after the announcement of results, but on the other the proposed Form-68 requires winning candidates to provide the same details within 10 days of the polling day.

ECP secretary urged to do away with condition related to campaign expenses

The PPP leader while referring to sub-rule (3) of rule 161 pointed out that political parties were required to submit the details of election expenses within 60 days of the publication of the names of returned candidates in the official gazette. He said the proposed Form-68 required the contesting candidates to provide the total election expenses under campaign finance (under section 211(2) of the Elections Act, 2017) made by a party within 10 days of polling day (in case of returned candidate) and within 30 days (in case of all other contesting candidates) as per sections 98, 124 & 134 of the Act.

Mr Bokhari wrote that this was a contradiction and an impossibility, since the contesting candidates could not provide the information that was not yet available from their respective parties.

He requested the ECP to omit the column in Form-68 that requires “Total election expens­­es under campaign finance (under section 211(2) of the Elections Act, 2017) made by a party”.

Section 211 of the Elections Act requires a political party to furnish to the commission the list of those who have donated or contributed Rs100,000 or more to a political party for its election campaign expenses and details of the election expenses incurred by it during a general election.

The ECP shall, within 14 days from the date of the poll, publish in the official gazette the name of the contesting candidate who has received the highest number of votes and stands elected. The commission shall also publish in the official gazette the name of each contesting candidate and the total number of votes received by him as in the Final Consolidated Result.

Under Section 98(3) of the Elections Act, every returned candidate is to submit within 10 days from the poll of an election, a return of election expenses under section 134. It also says the commission shall not notify in the official gazette the result of a returned candidate who fails to submit his return of election expenses.

In what appears to be a repetition, Section 124 of the Act reads “On receipt of the returns of the election, the commission shall publish in the official gazette and on its website the names of the returned candidates”. A proviso to the section makes it clear that the name of a candidate shall not be published who fails to submit the return of election expenses.

Section 134(1) of the Act binds contesting candidates, other than the returned candidate, to submit the returns of their election expenses on Form C within 30 days of the publication of the name of the returned candidate.

Funds provided by party

However, a senior official of the ECP, when contacted, explained that the contesting candidates would be required to provide details of the funds provided for their election campaign by their respective political parties under the proposed amendment in the rules, and not details of the overall campaign finance details of the parties.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2023

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