Pakistan political parties oppose proposed ban on rallies in 2018 polls

Islamabad [Pakistan], Oct.27 : A majority of political parties in Pakistan have opposed the proposed ban on public rallies and advertisements during the 2018 elections and expressed reservations over various other clauses of the draft code of conduct prepared by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The representatives of 16 parties had expressed their concerns in the parliament during a consultative meeting held on the proposed code of conduct for 2018 elections, reports the Dawn.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan, presided over the meeting.

However, the meeting was not attended by any party heads. Speaking to reporters, ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad said that all political parties have been asked by the commission to submit written proposals on the code of conduct.

Confirming that most of the parties had reservations over the proposed ban on public rallies, he said a suggestion was made during the meet that the commission should allow one public rally in each constituency However, political parties agreed on a proposal for ban on panaflex and banners.

The ECP secretary said that all the parties had expressed their determination to empower the commission.

During the meeting, CEC Justice Raza observed that by imposing a ban on public rallies and processions the loss of precious lives and excessive use of money in polls could be prevented.

He said that the ECP is empowered by the Constitution to conduct free and fair elections and guard against corrupt practices.

Citing the provisions of Representation of Peoples Act, Raza said that the commission has the authority to stop the blatant use of money in electoral exercises.

The CEC stated that they are making preparations to hold free, fair and impartial elections in 2018 and added that the draft code of conduct had been prepared in the light of the Supreme Court's verdict in the Watan Party case.

Claiming that transparent census and delimitation were a must for fair elections, Senator Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party said that 30 per cent delimitation had been made at the whim of influential people.

Latif Khosa of the Pakistan Peoples Party stated that returning and district returning officers should be drawn from among the ECP officials.

Terming the proposed ban on public rallies during election campaigns against democratic norms, he said that a big public gathering must be allowed in each constituency, in addition to corner meetings Besides consulting political parties, a public hearing on the code of conduct was propsed by Dr Arif Alvi of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

He said that an announcement should be made by ECP that an action would be entailed by documentary evidence about violation of the code of conduct.

Source: ANI