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Thursday December 02, 2021

Tribal district polls: ECP orders release of contesting candidates within 24 hours

June 29, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday ordered the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to withdraw the detention orders issued against two independent candidates, vying from South Waziristan for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly seats in the upcoming tribal districts elections.

“In order to ensure free, fair and transparent election under Article 281(3) read with Article 219 of the Constitution, it is hereby directed that the orders passed under Section 3 MPO shall be withdrawn within a day and till the close of polling day qua Muhammad Arif Wazir and Muhammad Iqbal Mehsud. The copy of the order is delivered toMuhammad Kabir, Additional Security (Home), who is to convey, such order to the deputy commissioner concerned immediately and compliance today,” the Election Commission said in its order.

Arif and Iqbal, who are both contesting from South Waziristan for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly seats were arrested this month. The Election Commission bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner Justice (R) Sardar Muhammad Raza, including Justice (R) Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi and Mrs Irshad Qaiser, said that the arrests, which were made after the election schedule was announced, were tantamount to pre-poll rigging and ordered the deputy commissioner of South Waziristan to release them within a day.

Muhammad Arif Wazir, who is contesting from PK-113, South Waziristan-1, and Muhammad Iqbal Masood, a candidate from PK-114, South Waziristan-1, were arrested under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order ordinance (power to arrest and detain suspected persons).

The Election Commission took notice of their arrest a day earlier and had summoned the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Home and Tribal Affairs Secretary Friday. However, he did not appear before the Election Commission. It was informed that he had gone to northern areas and was not available at Peshawar. Therefore, then the additional home secretary of KP was asked to convey the order to the deputy commissioner concerned immediately for compliance. The elections for tribal areas are scheduled to take place on July 20.

The Election Commission in its order observed that the detained contesting candidates had been accused of delivering speeches and raising slogans against the security of Pakistan. "It is said that they have been delivering speeches and raising slogans against the security of Pakistan and also that [an] FIR (first information report) has been registered. If this is [the] case, the act attributed is an offence and they are liable to be arrested which they were not so arrested at the time of registration of FIR. They are arrested now after the issuance of election schedule and during election campaign. It is a clear indication of helping the remaining candidates in the constituency and also is tantamount to pre-poll rigging," the EC bench said.

The Election Commission noted that under the provisions of the Elections Act, 2017, only the District Monitoring Officer was authorised to take action against candidates after the date of poll and during election.

It is pertinent that Section 3 of Article 218 of the Constitution says, “It shall be the duty of the Election Commission to organise and conduct the election and to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law, and that corrupt practices are guarded against".