ISLAMABAD - With more than three weeks are left for political parties to campaign for their respective candidates in the upcoming by-elections in Punjab, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday issued directives that Prime Minister, Chief Minister, lawmakers and other public office-holders cannot participate in the election campaign.
As October 11 has been fixed as the polling day on two key National Assembly constituencies — NA-122, NA-154, the ECP said that a party MPA cannot campaign for party’s candidate once the schedule for polls is announced.
The ECP had issued the election schedule for NA-122 and NA-154 on August 31st during which the decision whether party MNAs or government Ministers participation in polls campaign was under trial in Supreme Court.
However, the apex court after modifying some sections in code of conduct prepared by ECP, retained the clauses that bar PM, President, Ministers, MNAs, MPAs or any other public office holders from campaigning in favour of their respective aspirants.
The decision will affect Opposition parties contesting the polls particularly Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) as the party’s leadership has to abide by the rules, hence its candidates would strive hard to boost campaigns independently.
Political observers believe that since the ruling PML-N was in power both in center and in Punjab, its candidates would continue to get covert support from party’s leadership and administration.
Interestingly, it was PTI’s petitioner (Mansoor Sarwar Khan) who had moved the court against the participation of Ministers in election campaign in order to disconnect support to rival candidates during election campaigns.
Although the ECP has made it clear that public office holders should not announce development package, donation or any secret funds for the constituencies, officials said there was no agency that could check the activity.
The Commission said that lawmakers cannot visit the areas until the conclusion of by-polls warning strict action against those who violate the code of conduct.
Politicians believe that the logic behind barring politicians (MNAs or MPAs) from taking part in election process was beyond anybody’s guess as it was the basic of democracy to openly campaign for respective candidates.
The code of conduct even discourages area MNA from visiting the constituency once election schedule is announced, the clause ECP officials also object to. While they agree that funds should not be provided to a constituency where by-polls are held, yet they disapprove the ban on visit of lawmakers to the area.
The code of conduct would also apply to PP-16 Attock where by-polls would be held on October 6 after the seat fell vacant after Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada was killed in his hometown.