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ECP expressed concern over harassment to candidates

02 July, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Sunday expressed concern over media reports about “harassment and physical threats” to candidates at various places and blamed the “authorities concerned” for their failure to prevent such incidents.

In a letter sent to caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi, ECP secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad refers to recent incidents in Multan and Narowal and calls for taking “immediate corrective measures” to stop such happenings.

“It appears, unfortunately, that the concerned authorities have yet to take the bull by the horns,” the ECP secretary says, reminding the interim CM of the presentation given to the caretaker prime minister on June 25 when participants in the meeting were “specifically made aware of the threat to political leaders and contesting candidates”.

According to the secretary’s letter, the meeting had been attended by all the caretaker chief ministers, the interior minister, chief secretaries, the federal interior secretary and police chiefs.

“Under Article 218(3) of the Constitution, it is the duty of the ECP to organise and conduct the elections honestly, justly and fairly. The said constitutional mandate can be achieved only in a conducive environment,” writes the secretary, adding that he had been directed “in the spirit of Article 220 to enjoin through you, the police and the administration not to rest on their oars till the task of a fair and free election is achieved.”

Copies of the letter have also been forwarded to caretaker prime minister retired Justice Nasirul Mulk and the interim chief ministers of the three other provinces.

Just a day ago, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Rana Iqbal levelled serious allegations against some officials by claiming that he was harassed and tortured. He alleged that the officials of a secret agency had been forcing him to withdraw from the election race. He also claimed that a raid had been conducted on his warehouse.

While PML-N’s supreme leader Nawaz Sharif had condemned the harassment and torture of party candidate and questioned fairness of the election process in a statement issued from London shortly after the allegations had been levelled, Mr Iqbal changed his stance on Sunday.

Through a short video message, the PML-N candidate stated that the whole incident was the “result of some misunderstanding, which has now been removed”.

Meanwhile, the registrar of the Lahore High Court (LHC) has referred to the chief election commissioner a letter written by a district and sessions judge to the chief justice complaining against the role of an army officer in the conduct of the July 25 general elections.

LHC registrar draws CEC’s attention to a letter sent by an acting commanding officer of the area in Kasur district to the election commission. The army officer in his letter called a meeting of the district returning officer (DRO) and the returning officers (ROs) at his camp office in connection with the upcoming polls.

In his letter, the district and sessions judge stated: “In terms of Article 175 of the Constitution, judiciary is a separate organ of the state insofar as the two other organs legislative and executive”.

Sub-clause 3 of Article 175 provides separation of the judiciary from the executive, meaning thereby that the constitutional provisions stipulate independence of the judiciary in an explicit and discernible manner, says the letter.

“Therefore, the derogatory direction issued to DRO and ROs by the above-mentioned acting commanding officer to attend the conference at Abdul Majeed AXE Camp, Kasur, regarding General Elections 2018 cannot be countenanced in view of the above-mentioned provisions of the Constitution as on the request of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), this court placed the judicial officers at your disposal for their appointments as DROs and ROs for holding free and fair General Elections 2018,” it added.

When contacted, a senior ECP official said the matter had been “settled” with all the “quarters concerned”.

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