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Election Commission of Pakistan.—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has sought to eliminate role of the president in the formation of election tribunals, it has been learnt.

The tribunals are nominated by the chief election commissioner with the approval of the president, but under a proposed bill they will be nominated by the commission in consultation with the chief justice of the high court concerned.

The tribunals comprising two to three judges of high courts are required to summarily decide appeals against the returning officer’s decision of accepting or rejecting nomination papers within the time specified by the ECP and the order attains finality. The clause remains unchanged in the proposed bill which seeks to amend 24 sections of the Representation of People Act.

The ECP has dropped a proposal for a four-fold increase (Rs6 million for the National Assembly and Rs4m for the provincial assembly) in election expenses.

The proposal was opposed by proponents of a level playing field irrespective of financial status of the candidates.

Sources said that the proposal was part of the draft unified election law prepared by the commission, but had not been included in the abridged draft electoral law proposed to be passed by parliament before the elections. The decision has been taken to make the amendments more acceptable.

The ECP seeks to suspend any public functionary or a member of law-enforcement agencies who disobeys an order or fails to carry out any instruction issued by the commission or an authorised officer, or takes any step calculated to influence the election result in any manner.

Under the proposed amendment, the commission will be competent to initiate and finalise disciplinary action and impose any penalty against an official for misconduct.

The commission has suggested a new procedure for establishing polling stations. Under the proposed bill, the commission will provide a draft list of polling stations of each constituency in a prescribed format to the returning officer, who after physical verification and making necessary alterations will publish the same within 15 days, inviting objections from the electors to be filed with the district returning officer within 10 days. Where necessary, the district returning officer, with prior approval of the commission will make necessary changes. The final list of polling stations will be published in the official gazette at least 15 days before the polling day.The commission has proposed to extend the time for scrutiny of nomination papers from seven days to one month and the period for deciding appeals against acceptance or rejection of nomination papers from seven days to ten days. The returning officer has been proposed to be empowered for the purpose of scrutiny to require any person, agency or authority to produce any record, document or information about a candidate within a timeframe to be specified by him.

The commission has proposed to increase the fee of nomination paper from Rs4,000 to Rs50,000 for the National Assembly and from Rs2,000 to Rs25,000 for the provincial assembly. It has also suggested that the deposit amount be made non-refundable for the candidates who bag less than one-fourth of the total votes polled.

The commission has suggested an increase in the fee for challenging a vote, from Rs2 to Rs10.

The election petitions are proposed to be presented to the election tribunal concerned and not to the chief election commissioner and only the returned candidate will be allowed to be made respondent in the petition. The candidates will not be required to sign each and every schedule or annexure with the petition.

The draft bill has suggested that a penalty of Rs100,000 be fixed for impersonation, failure to submit return of election expenses in 30 days, violation of a bar on affixing posters, banners and hoardings bigger than the prescribed size and violation of a ban on wall-chalking, loud-speakers, canvassing near polling stations or demonstrating disorderly conduct near polling stations.

Any person who violates the code of conduct will also be liable to a penalty which may extend to Rs100,000.

The penalty for corrupt practices, including capturing polling stations and breach of election duty, has been proposed to be fixed at Rs50,000.