RAWALPINDI, April 9: The City District Government Rawalpindi (CDGR) on Tuesday introduced a new fee to be taken from all political parties who want to project their candidates for the election 2013.
The new city district administration will charge national and provincial assembly candidates for their banners, posters, handbills and other projection material.
However, political parties such as the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and others, have rejected the move and termed it a ‘tax’ on electioneering.
They said they would not pay the ‘forced tax’ for their party flags and posters.
The City District Government Rawalpindi has issued directives to the assistant commissioners in the district to collect the fee from political parties for the hoardings, banners, posters, party flags that they install in public places and distribution of pamphlets and handbills.
The district government has fixed a fee of Rs120 per month for two-feet by three-feet posters, 3x5 hoardings at Rs450 per month, 3x9 feet banner at Rs225 per week and handbills 9x6 inch at Rs7.56 per day.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) City President Aamir Fida Paracha told Dawn that the move was non-practical.
“It is a violation of the democratic norms that political parties would have to get permission from the bureaucracy to run their campaigns,” Mr Paracha said.
“The current District Coordination Officer has been transferred from Lahore to Rawalpindi, and is close to former Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
“He tried to make his own contractors happy by collecting the fee from political parties at the time of electioneering,” Mr Paracha said.
Former member of the National Assembly (MNA) from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Malik Shakil Awan also lashed out at the city district administration and said that the new administration in the garrison city had decided to impose tax on the electioneering process, forcing political workers to avoid campaigns for their candidates.
“The PML-N rejects the new system and the City District Government Rawalpindi has to reverse it. One thing is clear; the candidates or political parties will not pay tax for the hoardings, banners or distribution of handbills,” he said.
Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Rawalpindi spokesman Malik Azam said the City District Government Rawalpindi distributed millions of rupees among the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz legislators in its tenure and after facing shortage of funds, it was now introducing new ways to collect tax from the political parties.
He said the JI would accept those rules which were issued by the election commission.
The CDGR had no right to impose its rules for the electioneering in the district.
“We rejected the move and will not allow the CDGR to collect tax from the political parties by snatching their right to expression,” he said.
Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) leader and former district nazim Raja Tariq Kiani said the move was unrealistic and against the tradition of the elections.
He said in the past the City District Government Rawalpindi allotted some sites for commercial ads along the main roads but for elections it allowed the political parties to install their banners, posters and party flags according to the rules of the Election Commission of Pakistan.
“We are going to elect the leadership of the country and these tactics create hurdles for the political parties. The move is not acceptable for the political workers as the election commission has already limited candidates from spending more than Rs1 million for provincial assembly and Rs1.5million for national assembly seats,” he explained.
He said the new administration should play the role of facilitators rather than create hurdles.
When contacted, Assistant Commissioner City Fahad Waqar Azeem told Dawn that the fee was introduced after consulting ECP’s code of conduct Section-10.
This allows local administration to charge fee for such hoardings, and political parties should take the permission from CDGR before setting up banners, he said.
“The candidate or political parties should contact City District Government Rawalpindi taxation office or assistant commissioner office to get the permission after paying the fee for their posters,” he added.