ISLAMABAD - The electoral body on Friday rejected the objections raised by the law ministry over amendments in the nomination papers for general elections and gave a three-day deadline to the ministry to get the amended nomination papers approved by the president.
It also decided to have the un-amended or the existing version of the nomination papers printed in case the amended papers are not approved till the given deadline.
In an internal meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim and members of the commission decided to reject the objections raised by the Ministry of Law and Justice on the grounds that the electoral body was mandated to make amendments in the electoral procedures with the approval of president in the light of Section 107 The Representation of the People Act (RoPA) 1976. The commission's management also contended that it was outside the purview of the law ministry to raise objections.
The RoPA's Section 107 states, "The commission may, with the approval of the president, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this act."
The CEC Fakhruddin Ebrahim, when contacted, confirmed having rejected the law ministry's objections on the amended nomination papers. "The Constitution of Pakistan duly empowers us to make such amendments that are deemed necessary," he said adding that the law ministry did not have authority to overrun or object to the ECP decisions.
"Any attempt to interfere in the ECP business shall not be acceptable. It would be detrimental for the conduct of free and fair elections," Ebrahim stated.
To a query, the CEC said that the deadline on the president's approval for amended nomination papers was set considering the time factor. "The present assemblies are packing up next week (March 16) and after that the elections schedule has to be announced. We don't have much time left, we can wait till Monday."
According to ECP officials, law ministry-raised three major objections were against the columns in the nomination papers seeking the wealth details and tax records of the candidates (for general polls) family members, details of the foreign trips in the past three years and the candidates' tax records. The law ministry asked the ECP to omit the relevant columns about the polls' contestants family members as well as the details of candidates' foreign trips. Moreover, the ministry also asked the commission to have the tax record of the electoral candidates scrutinised by the FBR instead of seeking such details in the nomination papers.
The commission has also proposed to hold general elections on May 8-9, while it has also informed the government the electoral schedule should be issued before March 21 following the dissolution of assemblies on March 16.
Sher Afghan said the ECP should receive the nomination forms within six days after the issuance of schedule, whereas scrutiny would be completed in the next seven days following the submission.
He further said that the president would announce the date of elections after which final election schedule would be issued.