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PML-N seeks legal cover for election code

April 05, 2013

PML-N leader Senator Ishaq Dar addresses a press conference. – File Photo by Online

ISLAMABAD: The PML-N urged the interim government on Thursday to provide legal cover to the code of conduct announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for political parties.

In a letter to Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, Leader of Opposition in the Senate and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Ishaq Dar said that the absence of legal cover to the election code was a major concern for the Senate’s Special Committee on Election Issues which had extensively worked on the code.

A copy of the letter has been sent to ECP secretary Ishtiak Ahmed Khan.

Mr Dar said that the ECP had also been taken on board while preparing the code of conduct in order to build a broad-based consensus.

The committee forwarded its recommendations to the ECP on Jan 7, which were widely adopted by the commission.

He said certain provisions of the code had the legal backing, but a substantive part of it was merely moral which required the legislative back-up for effective implementation.

Giving examples, Mr Dar said the code of conduct provided that no transaction towards the election expenses should be made through an account other than the one opened for the purpose. However, there is no legal remedy available for its violation.

The PML-N leader said the code enunciated that issuance of advertisements to media at the cost of public exchequer and misuse of official mass media during the election period for partisan coverage of political news and publicity by the federal, provincial and local governments should be prohibited; obligation of political parties and candidates to restrain their workers from exerting undue pressure against the print and electronic media, including newspaper offices and printing presses, or resorting to violence of any kind against the media, but no legal backing was available to the said provision.

The code of conduct, Mr Dar said, placed a ban on aerial firing, use of crackers and other explosives at public meetings and at or near polling stations by any person, which lacked legal backing and the committee had recommended that consequential amendment should be introduced in law providing stringent penalties leading to a seven-year imprisonment and making the proposed offence non-bailable.

Mr Dar said there were many such instances, “therefore, in order to support holding of free and fair elections and for effective implementation of the code of conduct in letter and spirit, immediate promulgation of an ordinance for providing legal cover to the entire code of conduct is inevitable”.