76pc of PTI nomination papers for upcoming polls accepted, ECP tells SC

Published January 7, 2024
Commission is set to suffer from intermittent vacuum, fears official. — File photo
Commission is set to suffer from intermittent vacuum, fears official. — File photo

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Sunday informed the Supreme Court that 76 per cent of nomination papers filed by PTI candidates for the upcoming general elections had been accepted, negating the party’s allegations of a lack of level playing field in the run-up to polls.

In a response submitted to the apex court, the electoral watchdog, citing data obtained by returning officers (ROs), said 598 out of a total of 843 nomination papers of PTI candidates for the National Assembly had been accepted. Similarly, 1,398 out of 1,777 candidatures for provincial assemblies had been accepted.

The ECP reply was furnished on a PTI petition seeking contempt of court proceedings against the election commission and other government authorities for the all­eged violation of the apex court’s Dec 22 orders — in which the SC had directed the ECP to attend to the PTI’s grievances urgently and resolve these expeditiously — and lack of level playing field for the party during the election process.

The PTI has alleged that conspiracies are being hatched to exclude it from the Feb 8 general elections as the party’s top leadership and its allies were knocked out of the polls race, after almost “90pc of nominations from important leaders” failed to stand the scrutiny exercise. Earlier, it also claimed that the nomination papers of party candidates were also snatched.

In a reply submitted today, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the ECP said it had held a meeting with the PTI and assured the party that a level playing field would be provided to all candidates contesting the polls across the board without discrimination.

It said the election commission’s secretary, who looked after the administrative affairs of the ECP, took follow-up steps on the matter.

“The commission has also issued instructions to the chief commissioner, Islamabad and all the four provincial chief secretaries, inspector(s) general of police, and all the four provincial election commissioners. In turn, the provincial election commissioners have issued the instructions to the DROs and ROs,” it added.

The ECP further maintained that it had established complaint cells and contact numbers had been shared with the PTI. It said that action had been taken on all the complaints submitted by the PTI in all four provinces and Islamabad.

“The ratio of acceptance of nomination papers of PTI candidates for election to the nation and provincial assemblies is 76.18pc,” the ECP said, highlighting that statistical data showed PTI candidates, their proposers, and seconders were provided with a level playing field.

It further highlighted that the party had a right to appeal the rejection of candidatures before the appellate election tribunal.

“The petitioner (PTI) has been unable to provide any proof that respondent 2 (ECP) has defied the order of the court dated Dec 22 in any manner whatsoever. The commission has taken all possible steps to comply with the order of the court dated Dec 22 […] therefore no contempt of this court is established as contemplated under Article 204 of the Constitution, the contempt petition ex-facie is not maintainable,” the ECP concluded.

It urged the court to dismiss the PTI’s contempt petition.

Punjab govt says supporting ECP for free, fair polls

A day earlier, the chief secretary of Punjab had assured the SC that the provincial government was committed to supporting the ECP in conducting free and fair elections.

He stated that the government had implemented in letter and spirit all instructions received from the ECP and Punjab election commissioner. Compla­ints received from political parties had also been disposed of in accordance with relevant rules and laws, he added.

The reply was furnished in response to the apex court’s Jan 3 order — issued on PTI’s petition seeking level playing field — for the chief secretary and the inspector general of police to furnish a report on whether the directives issued by the provincial election commission to them were complied with, and if not, then explain the reason for not doing so.

According to the reply, the Punjab government prepared district-wise handbooks containing all details regarding election; besides, all returning officers (RO) have been directed to provide level playing field to all the contesting candidates and political parties for the conduct of the general elections.

Moreover, it said, non-arbitrary scrutiny process had been ensured for all candidates who had filed their nomination papers.

The reply said all interested candidates were able to file nomination papers without any hindrance, adding that no illegal arrest/detention of any contesting candidate or their proposers or seconders was made.

It said that personal visits by the ROs to polling stations were und­e­r­way to ensure the availability of essential facilities there like electricity, water, boundary walls, etc.

Likewise, it added, district control rooms had been established for monitoring/coordination and redressal of the grievances of contesting candidates. Moreover, districts have started procuring CCTV cameras for installation at all highly sensitive polling stations.

The reply said that information rela­ted to the electoral process had also been made public in accordance with the election rules.

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