ISLAMABAD, April 17: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has said it has no plan to keep any politico-religious party out of the electoral arena.
“We have just explained the substantive legal provisions that require candidates not to seek vote in the name of religion and this explanation must not be misconstrued,” an ECP official told reporters on Wednesday.
Under Section 78(4) of the Representation of People Act, 1976, those who call upon or persuade any person to vote, or to refrain from voting, for any candidate on the ground that he belongs to a particular religion, province, community, race, caste, sect or tribe are liable to be tried for corrupt practices — a crime which may entail imprisonment for up to three years.
The official also pointed out that under Section 78(5), those who knowingly, in order to support or oppose a candidate, lent, employed, hired, borrowed or used any vehicle or vessel for the purposes of transporting a voter to or from the polling station, except himself and members of his immediate family or caused or attempted to cause any person present and waiting to vote at the polling station to depart without voting would be in the same category.
Meanwhile, Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim has written letters to three leaders, expressing grief over the loss of lives in recent terrorist attacks.
In his letter to MQM’s deputy convener Dr Farooq Sattar, he said he was shocked by the loss of life his party had suffered in Hyderabad. “I have no doubt that such barbaric attacks are designed to challenge the very foundation of our great nation. I salute all candidates and their workers who continue to stand steadfast against such attacks on Pakistan’s nascent democracy,” he said.
He said the ECP had reiterated its support for the demand for adequate security for all candidates, adding that it was imperative for free and fair elections.
In his letter to the ANP chief, the CEC said the ECP had not called for withdrawal of security for leaders of his party. He said he had seen in the press reports about a letter written to him by the ANP chief, but no such letter had yet been received. A copy of the CEC’s letter was also sent to Senator Afrasiab Khatak.
In a letter to PML-N leader Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, he expressed grief and offered condolences for the loss of lives of members of his family and security personnel in a terrorist attack in Balochistan. “The nation joins you in your hour of suffering and prays that the departed souls may rest in eternal peace,” the letter, a copy of which was also sent to PML-N chief Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, said.
In a statement issued here, the CEC condemned the “barbaric and senseless attacks” in Peshawar and Balochistan on Tuesday and in Hyderabad earlier.
“The fact that these attacks have been targeted against those participating in electoral activities exposes that terrorist organisations are bent upon destroying Pakistan and our faith in its prosperity,” he said.