SAJID ZIA AND ARSHAD BHATTI

LAHORE – Majority of the political parties have supported the Election Commission f Pakistan on the new format of the nomination papers, seeking additional information from candidates regarding the amounts of paid taxes, foreign visits and the loans they and their immediate dependents have obtained.

The Law Ministry has discarded the contents while challenging the authority of the ECP to incorporate these columns in the nomination papers. The commission has, however, sent the nomination papers to the printing machine overruling the objections of the ministry, even without the president’s assent.

When contacted, PML-N Secretary General Zafar Iqbal Jhagra said he was personally in favour of any decision the ECP took for free and fair elections. He, however, added his party would first look into the details of what the commission had incorporated in the nomination papers and then come up with the opinion whether the election schedule allowed time to scrutinise these details. Jhagra said free and fair elections were of utmost importance and a thorough examination of a candidate was also a need to that end. However, the whole process must be completed within the scheduled time, he added.

PML-Q Central Secretary Information Senator Kamil Ali Agha said the Election Commission of Pakistan must be empowered to ensure free and fair elections. He said they would appreciate any step of the Election Commission which he was taking to make the elections transparent, free and fair provided its action was within its legal and constitutional jurisdiction. Agha said if the commission took a step beyond its authority, the elections would become controversial and the system would be damaged. So they would fully endorse that step of the commission which was within its legal authority and aimed at making the elections fair and free.

ANP Punjab President Ihsan Wyne endorsed the ECP decision and said the commission was independent under the 18th Constitutional Amendment to hold free and fair elections and no objection could be raised to any step it took to meet the purpose. The ECP had every right to frame the nomination papers and nobody should make the electoral body controversial and holding of the elections doubtful, he said and added those who were criticising the ECP decision wanted to get the elections postponed. He remarked that Chief Election Commission Fakharudddin G Ebrahim was a man of integrity who did not have any interest but to hold transparent elections. “If a candidate is neat and clean, he should not fear the columns in question and if he gives correct information, he will enjoy his good image among the voters as well,” he said.

PTI Central Information Secretary Shafqat Mehmood said they were in favour of the decision as it would strengthen autonomy of the commission. He said, “PTI thinks the ECP is sincere to its mission and wants to conduct free and fair elections. We will support all the decisions of the commission taken in the larger interest of the nation.”

Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary General Liaquat Baloch, welcoming the decision of the ECP, said the commission was established to conduct free and fair elections and it could take each and every decision for this purpose. He said they believed in full autonomy of the commission and it should do its business in the light of the apex court’s decision. He noted if the government or the president tried to damage the ECP’s mandate, it would be against the spirit of democracy. He was of the view that the ECP should be given a free hand.

Pakistan Awami Tehrik president Dr Rahiq Abbasi said, “Though we do not accept the explanation of the ECP regarding loans in the proposed nomination paper, we welcome the decision. He said the ECP should not have forwarded the format of the nomination paper to the Law Ministry as it was the mandate of the commission to make its own decision for conducting free and fair elections.

JUI-F leader Maulana Amjad Khan said they would support each and every legal and constitutional move of the ECP. He advised the government and the ECP to observe the Constitution and avoid confrontation. He opined the ECP should examine candidates under articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution, adding the candidates not fulfilling the criteria should be ousted.

JUP Secretary General Qari Zawwar Bahadur also welcomed the decision and said the commission should take bold steps to conduct free and fair elections at all costs. He said Pakistan’s future depended upon the upcoming elections and the commission was responsible for holding free elections.