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Monday June 17, 2024

ECP proposes changes in election rules ahead of polls

Parties can file objections to ECP's draft amendments to election laws by October 7

By Nausheen Yusuf
September 23, 2023
An anti-terrorist force personal uses a metal detector to check the area of the Election Commission of Pakistan in Islamabad on August 26, 2008. — AFP
An anti-terrorist force personal uses a metal detector to check the area of the Election Commission of Pakistan in Islamabad on August 26, 2008. — AFP

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Saturday laid out several new provisions by amending some of the laws in the election rules for the political parties that become actively engaged in preparations for the upcoming polls.

The draft amendments come days after the announcement of a timeframe for the general elections by the top electoral body, which said that the polls will be held in the last week of January, without setting a specific date.

The electoral watchdog also gave a deadline for the objections on the proposed changes, which can be submitted by October 7.

A notification issued by the ECP stated that Section 239 of the Election Rules, 2017, empowers the commission to make rules for carrying the purposes of the act.

"[...] in view of different scenarios and to resolve the predicaments arisen with time, the Election Commission has carried out various amendments in rules," it stated.

The amended rules include 51, 52(3), 56(3), 66(4), 71(2), 84(4), 85(2), 87(2), 134(1), 134(2), 134(2A), 134A, 137(1), 143(1), 143(4), 158(1), 158(3), 161(1), Form41(g), Form41(h)(ii), Form 67, Form 68, and Annexures, and Form 69.

According to the proposed amendments, candidates will be required to operate a separate bank account for poll expenses.

Days after giving a timeframe for the upcoming general elections, the country's top polls governing body on Saturday suggested several amendments to the election rules.

As the political parties gear up for contesting the general elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) outlined the changes, some of which suggest new obligations for the candidates.

A notification issued by the ECP stated that Section 239 of the Election Act, 2017, empowers the commission to make rules for the conduct of polls.

"[...] in view of different scenarios and to resolve the predicaments arisen with time, the Election Commission has carried out various amendments in rules," it stated.

The amended rules include 51, 52(3), 56(3), 66(4), 71(2), 84(4), 85(2), 87(2), 134(1), 134(2), 134(2A), 134A, 137(1), 143(1), 143(4), 158(1), 158(3), 161(1), Form41(g), Form41(h)(ii), Form 67, Form 68, and Annexures, and Form 69.

The electoral watchdog also gave a deadline for the objections on the proposed changes, which can be submitted by October 7.

Here are the key amendments proposed by ECP:

Candidates will be required to operate a separate bank account for poll expenses.

"Provided that a candidate shall open an exclusive bank account or dedicate an existing bank account already opened with a scheduled bank to maintain transactions of election expenses and shall attach a statement of the said bank account starting with entries of seven days prior to the election schedule with the nomination papers for election to an Assembly or the Senate on Form A. The bank account so opened or dedicated shall not be a joint signatory account."

The candidates will deposit the sum of money with an application for contest in the national treasury, and it will not be refundable.

"And thereafter sub-rule (4) of rule 52 shall stand omitted."

The candidates will maintain a register of receipts and payments and all financial records and details to support every payment made in respect of election expenses, and submit them to the returning officer "in Form C appended to the Act".

Moreover, if a candidate allows another person to bear his election expenses on his behalf, they must also maintain record/details of it.

"[...] maintain record/details of election expenses incurred for his election campaign by that person showing his name, copies of NIC/NICOP (resident of Pakistan having Pakistani NIC or overseas Pakistani holding NICOP) issued by NADRA, types of expenses incurred, source of income of the person, address, phone number."

The ECP will reconcile the total sum of expenses recorded in Forms C, 67 and 68 within the permissible limit of the election expenses of the returned candidate.

The RO will publish the list of contesting candidates with their respective symbols at some conspicuous place in his office, furnish a copy of it to the contesting candidate, district election commissioner, provincial election commissioner and to ECP, which will upload it for display on its website.

The RO will "in presence of contesting candidates and one of their election agents duly authorised by such candidate as may be present", open the packet containing the ballot papers which have been excluded from the count by the presiding officer.

The RO will personally seal the "provisional and final consolidated statement of results of the count and final consolidated results" after preparing on Form-47, 48 and 49, respectively.

Two new forms namely Form-67 and Form-68 shall be added after Form 66.

"The Commission shall reconcile the total sum of expenses recorded in Forms C,67 and 68 within the permissible limit of the election expenses of the returned candidate."

Earlier this week, in a much-awaited move, the electoral authority had announced that elections will be held in January next year following the completion of the delimitation process.

Polls were supposed to have taken place within 90 days, but the election watchdog said it needed more time to redraw constituencies following the latest population census.

"The final list of constituencies will be published on November 30. After that, the elections will be held in the last week of January 2024, after a 54-day election programme," the commission said in a statement.

Amid calls for holding elections within the 90-day stipulated time, a senior official at the ECP ruled out the possibility of polls in the constitutionally mandated period even if the delimitation exercise is halted.