Problems for Prime Minister Imran Khan have been increasing as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) issued notices to him and other PTI officials on Friday for attending an election rally in Lower Dir in violation of the “rule of conduct.”
In addition to the premier, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shah Farman, Chief Minister Mehmood Khan, federal ministers Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Asad Umer and Murad Saeed and others were among those who received notices from the ECP.
The ECP Lower Dir district monitoring officer (DMO) issued notices to PTI officials for speaking at a public rally in contravention of the amended code of conduct.
He had previously recommended the prime minister to cancel his plans, and now he has summoned him to appear before him on March 14 in person or through counsel, along with a written declaration in his defence.
The DMO stated that there was sufficient evidence to prove that the code of conduct had been broken.
“…..in case of your failure to submit your written defence or failure to appear before the undersigned, in person or through counsel, an ex-parte decision would be taken under Section-243 of the Elections Act, 2017,” the notice stated.
Moreover, notices have also been issued to seven candidates from different tehsils of Lower Dir over the related violation.
In the exercise of its powers under Section 234 (3) of the Elections Act, 2017, the Election Commission can impose a maximum fine of Rs50,000 on anyone found guilty of violating the electoral code of conduct.
The commission also has the power to disqualify any candidate from contesting polls if he/she is found to be violating the electoral code of conduct more than once, under Section 234(4) of the Act.
Earlier, putting aside the ‘controversial’ presidential ordinance, amending electoral rules, the ECP barred key public office-holders, including the president and prime minister, from taking part in the election campaigns.
The ECP revised the code of conduct for political parties and candidates in the light of the recent consultation with the political parties, says a statement issued by the commission’s media wing here.
However, members of parliament and the provincial assemblies have been allowed to take part in electoral campaigns.
The public office-holders, including the president, PM, chairman, deputy chairman, speaker, deputy speaker of any assembly, federal ministers, ministers of state, governors, chief ministers, provincial ministers, and advisors to the prime minister, mayors, chairmen, nazims, and their deputies, would not participate in any manner whatsoever, the ECP order said.
However, parliamentarians and legislators of provincial assemblies are allowed to participate in the election campaigns, subject to their strict adherence to the code of conduct, which is stated in the revised code of conduct.
Section 181 of the Elections Act, 2017 states: “No government functionary or elected representative, including a local government functionary or elected representative, shall announce any development scheme for a constituency after the announcement of the election programme for that constituency.”
However, through the ordinance, promulgated by President Dr Arif Alvi last month, Section 181(A) has been added to the Act: The new law allows a member of parliament, provincial assembly or elected member of local government, including a member holding any other office under the constitution or any other law, to visit or address public meetings in any area or constituency.
With reference to the related ordinance, the Election Commission had also recently written to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs for its review and contended that it was for the Commission to frame a code of conduct for political parties, contesting candidates, and others involved in the electoral exercise, under Section 233 of the Elections Act.