Desperately trying to get hold of the whims of power, the mainstream political parties seem to have forgotten that they are a part of a democratic set up, where institutions have authority and can use it to outline how a polity must work. Punjab, primarily Lahore, is the epicentre of politics in Pakistan at the moment. The political parties have a deep realisation about this fact, which is why the race for the seat of NA-120 has become larger than life.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) recognizing the sensitivity of the situation provided a code of conduct for NA-120. It is very clear in pushing forward the fact that no state machinery would be used to influence the result of the election. However, each party – be it Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) or the ruling party Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) is using everything in their capacity to outsmart each other, or more accurately, the rules set down by ECP.

While other political leaders and government officials are barred from campaigning in NA-120, every party seems to have found a way around that “technicality”. PTI led a rally from Chairing Cross to Data Darbar on Thursday under the garb of visiting the holy area. That may be their political stance, but it is quite evident that the reason why this particular area was chosen was because of its closeness to the constituency. Similar is the case of PPP, the initially dormant party in the area. They also held a gathering near Mazang locality. At the same time Maryam Nawaz, who is running the campaign on behalf of her mother, made several visits to the constituency to gather support with PML-N party members in tow.

Now even though the returning officer of NA-120 has written a letter to the Punjab chief secretary and inspector general, pointing out the violations, there seems to be little willingness from the ECP to get involved, especially not to sanction any party in a meaningful way.

With these rules being so flagrantly violated, what purpose are they serving? Politicians across the board have openly criticised these rules, asking that they be removed completely. If the ECP does not seem willing, or isn’t capable of equally applying its code of conduct in letter and word, they should consider reforming it on more pragmatic lines.

Either that or they should give up the pretence of policing NA-120 altogether.