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Model code of conduct for polls proposed

July 03, 2007


ISLAMABAD, July 2: A model code of conduct has been proposed for the forthcoming elections for consideration by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), political parties and other stake-holders

The proposal came from the Citizens Group on Electoral Process (CGEP).

He urged the ECP and the Political Parties to come together to agree on a set of rules for elections now to provide a level-playing field to all stakeholders for free and fair general election.

The proposed code of conduct specifically focuses on the role of the President of Pakistan, the office that has not been covered by previous codes of conduct in the country. “A model code of conduct has to provide a meaningful solution to the specific challenges of the day,” the CGEP held. Although the office of the President is a symbol of unity of the state and the holder of the office can not act partisan at any time, the conduct of the present incumbent has been contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, believed the Citizens Group. Welcoming the statement by CEC Justice (Retd.) Qazi Muhammad Farooq, that it was not appropriate for the President to address public meetings, the CGEP believed that the ECP has to go beyond expressing displeasure and bring the conduct of the holder of the office, as well as other stakeholders conduct, under a set of rules.

The CGEP proposed code that bars the President from supporting any political party or group, implicitly or explicitly, in a public statement, speech or a meeting.

The code states that the President “shall not show any inclination towards or promote a lobby or group on the basis of its ideology, ethnic or linguistic identity or faith”. 6 months preceding the expiry of the term of the National Assembly, of the President or from the date of dissolution of the National Assembly whichever of the three occurs earlier.” The code goes on to state that it is the law of the land that will decide which political party, group or individual can contest elections and the President “ shall not make any statement which defies or impinges on the legal and constitutional right of any Pakistani citizen or party to contest elections.”

The code goes on to state that the President shall neither attend any public meeting, rally or congregation organised by or organised for the benefit of a political party or alliance nor promise or announce any special or preferential package or programme from public funds for any constituency or area at least 6 months preceding the scheduled expiry of the term of the National Assembly or with effect from the dissolution of the National Assembly whichever occurs earlier.

The code also brings into its fold the Local Governments widely perceived to be the vehicles of election rigging in the previous general election.

“The local government Nazims and Naib Nazims will be made non-functional with effect from the date of announcing of election schedule till the finalisation of election results.

Administrators belonging to the civil bureaucracy will be appointed during the period when Nazims and Naib Nazims are made non-functional,” the CGEP-proposed code stipulates.

Devoting a section to the Caretaker Government, the CGEP-proposed code lays down that the caretaker governments “ shall be installed in consultation with the political parties represented in the Parliament.”

It states that the caretaker ministers, chief ministers and Prime Minister shall be neutral and in addition to the Caretaker Prime Minister and Chief Ministers, the ministers in the caretaker cabinet shall also not be eligible to contest the immediately following election of any assembly under the General Election.

The code further specifies that the caretaker governments “shall ensure that no cause is given for any complaint that they have used their official position for the purposes of election campaign or advantage to a political party or candidate.”

Releasing the proposed code of conduct to the ECP and the heads of political parties and the media, the CGEP believed that whereas in mature democracies, including India, Election Code of Conduct is voluntarily arrived at and agreed by the government, political parties and the election administration, in the case of Pakistan, election codes of conduct have neither been voluntarily decided by parties nor the ECP has held any meaningful consultation with parties before issuing various codes.

The CGEP urged that the key stakeholders thoroughly consider this proposed Code of Conduct and voluntarily adopt a code as early as possible. The CGEP also proposed that the All-Parties Conference scheduled for the first week of July discusses and adopts a Code of Conduct for general Election.