Two federal ministers and a senior government official have been asked by a district returning officer to explain why they had violated the Election Commission of Pakistan’s code of conduct by participating in the campaigns of the ruling party’s candidates for NA-122 and PP-147.
The show cause notices to Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique, Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali and Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) Chairperson Marvi Memon came hours before the Lahore High Court extended a stay order against some sections of the code.
The district retuning officer for NA-122, where by-elections are scheduled for October 11, issued the notices to the ministers and BISP chairman for supposed violating the ECP’s code of conduct that bars the president, prime minister, chief ministers and cabinet members from campaigning in any constituency going for by-polls.
They have been advised to file their replies by October 6.
A few months ago, the ECP had amended its code of conduct to bar all members of national and provincial assemblies from participating in election campaigns of any candidate. But the new clauses of the code were challenged in the LHC, which scrapped the amendments. Subsequently, the ECP challenged the high court’s order in the Supreme Court.
When the poll supervisory body’s plea was taken up last month, the petitioner who had initially challenged the new code in the LHC did not show up.
With the top court yet to rule on the matter, another petitioner moved the LHC against the ECP’s code. The court upheld its previous decision that the provisions barring MNAs and MPAs from visiting constituencies due to go to polls do not hold ground. Hearing that case on Monday, Justice Ayesha A Malik of the LHC further extended the stay till October 27 as the government’s counsel sought time to file a reply.
Meanwhile, the PML-N claims that after the LHC order, its lawmakers are not barred from participating in election campaigns of the party candidates contesting by-polls.
The ECP, however, rejects this interpretation insisting that the provisions barring the ministers from taking part in electioneering for by-polls were not part of the clauses which had been amended, and thus subject to a judicial stay.
A spokesperson for the poll body claimed that Rafique and Ali’s actions were clear violations of the code. But he admitted that the divergent court orders had caused confusion.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2015.