The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has come up with a set of guidelines for the upcoming general elections. The most important point in the draft code is ECP’s proposed ban on political parties from collecting money from aspiring electoral candidates. The move is appreciable one, as it will provide a level playing field to all the contestants.

While the draft code is yet to be consulted with all political parties having representation in the parliament, it is to be seen how the parties react to the progressive and much-needed move by the ECP. The commission has incorporated the prohibition to discourage parties’ practice of collecting vast sums of money by all those who desire to contest in the general elections in the name of application fee –keeping in mind the fact that the application is non-refundable and automatically goes to party fund. The problem with application fee is two-pronged. First, neither ECP nor parties set any specific amount as application fee. This failure to set a particular amount as application fee provides ample room to manipulate the process of giving party tickets. Thus those applicants who succeed in submitting the highest application fee gets the party ticket, as the history tells us. Second, there is a high likelihood of the deserving candidates being neglected by the parties merely because they fail to submit an enormous amount of money as party fund.

While parties are yet to deliberate over the merits and demerits of the proposed clause in the code of conduct for the coming elections, it is worth asking how ECP will ensure that the desiring contestants do not use other channels to buy party tickets in the elections that are likely to take place on July 25, 2018. The ECP needs to cover all loopholes that the parties or individuals can use to allocate and buy party tickets. The ECP is relying on local administration for stopping the abuse of the code of conduct along with initiating legal action and disqualification of the candidate.

Another worth asking question is if any abuse in this regard will make one in violation of new but still undefined ambit of articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution of Pakistan. For the language used by the ECP suggests so, as it reads that any violation of the code of conduct issued by ECP can result in disqualification of the candidate.