ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan has finally declared May 9 as tentative date for the general elections.
A senior ECP official told media sources that the proposal had been informally conveyed to the government through the Ministry of Law. He said it was flexible between May 7 and 10.
Under the law it is for the president to announce a date for elections which is followed by the announcement of election schedule, but the government decided to take the ECP on board to work out feasible dates.
“It is not a law, but it has become a tradition,” the ECP official said.
But the positive aspect of the consultative process was neutralised by a major development on Friday. Law Minister Farooq H. Naek sent to the ECP clause-by-clause objections to the amendments it had proposed in nomination forms. The ECP rejected the objections and said it had proposed the amendments in line with the spirit of Article 218(3) of the Constitution as well as directives of the Supreme Court in the Workers’ Party case in order to ensure fairness, justness and credibility of the elections and guard against corrupt practices.
The commission expressed its inability to reconsider its proposal already sent to the law ministry for approval by the president.
“In this respect, you would appreciate that after approval of the proposed amendments in nomination forms by the president, the same are required to be printed and distributed among returning officers across the country for use in the upcoming elections. For the completion of these activities, very short time has been left with the Election Commission. In order to allow us to complete the aforesaid activities well before time, it is important that approval of the president is conveyed to the commission latest by March 11 noon,” it said.
The ECP official said the commission would have no option but to start printing of nomination papers on the old pattern if the approval was not accorded by March 11.
The law minister in his written objections had opposed a clause requiring candidates to file income and agricultural tax returns for three years. He said it was unnecessary to seek details about the spouse and dependents of a candidate, including assets, and said it was already covered in statements of assets and liabilities submitted by lawmakers to the ECP on an annual basis.
Mr Naek objected to a clause seeking record of criminal proceedings against candidates and said Article 63 did not apply unless somebody had been convicted. He said donation given to a party also had nothing to do with Articles 62 and 63 and the amendment proposed in this respect should also be omitted.
He said there was no requirement for seeking details of foreign visits by candidates because it had nothing to do with qualification and disqualification.
SECURITY DURING POLLS: Election Commission Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan visited the General Headquarters on Friday and discussed with the director general of military operations issues relating to security during the elections.
The military authorities assured the secretary that the army would extend all possible support to the ECP to ensure peaceful environment during the elections.
More details about sensitive areas and polling stations will be worked out by the commission and shared with the military authorities at the next meeting to be held after the announcement of election schedule.