ISLAMABAD - It is a significant achievement for Pakistan’s democracy that political parties have agreed on a code of conduct for the upcoming elections, and it is crucial that they adhere to it to ensure free and fair polls.This was the opinion of participants at a seminar organised on Friday by the Jinnah Institute, with the support of the Asia Foundation, on the recently promulgated code of conduct for political parties.Raza Rumi, Director Jinnah Institute, highlighted the importance of political parties acknowledging the importance of a code of conduct and agreeing on its provisions. “It is a significant achievement that the political parties themselves have agreed on a code of conduct, but the security climate prevailing in the country can threaten the prospects of holding free and fair elections,” he said.The seminar was attended by politicians from various political parties, members of civil society, journalists and researchers, and was a culmination of the consultation process carried out across Pakistan on the code of conduct by the Jinnah Institute. Over 15 political parties participated in the nationwide consultations, and the recommendations and observations gathered from the exercise were passed on to relevant institutions, including the Election Commission of Pakistan, local authorities, political parties, and the caretaker government.Gareth Aicken, the Asia Foundation’s country representative in Pakistan, said that it is a major achievement in the context of Pakistan’s history that the recent National Assembly has completed its full term. He added that the political parties now have a responsibility to adhere to the rules they have agreed on. “A successful transition now may build up trust in the democratic system of governance for generations to come,” he said.Khawaja Izhar ul Hassan of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) spoke about the importance of ensuring an even playing field for all political parties and stressed the need for institutions to not allow the marginalisation of any one party. Referring to the code of conduct, Hassan said that the MQM is the most disciplined party of Pakistan. “We will ensure that all our candidates and members abide by the rules and regulations.”Jan Achakzai of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUIF) stressed the importance of facilitation women voters, and said that his party was committed to ensuring the implementation of the code of conduct.Colonel Younus from the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) said that the process of scrutiny of candidates’ papers needs to be improved, with greater emphasis on finances. He said that there are problems in the process, but they will not be fixed if they are not properly identified.Siddique ul Farooq if the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) said that the political process shows that the Pakistani nation is moving forward, despite problems, and highlighted the role of the media in helping strengthen democracy. Regarding the code of conduct, he said that it is a very positive sign that every political party supported the code.Afzal Khan, Additional Secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan, also participated in the discussion, and highlighted the role of his organisation in ensuring free and fair elections.