Enforcing election laws

When high-ups are involved in violations

Ignoring the directive from the ECP to skip his Peshawar visit because the schedule of the local government elections in KP had been announced, Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the gathering at Governor’s House Peshawar and said things which many consider were in violation of the Code of Conduct. The PM recounted in detail the pro-poor measures enforced by both the KP and federal governments. He told the audience that a significant reduction in poverty was witnessed in KP during 2013-18 owing to the PTI government’s “prudent policies.” He congratulated the KP government for extending free health insurance to 100 per cent of the population. There were further promises including free medical services worth Rs1 million annually to 7.5 million families in the province. The voters were told that the government was providing 6.3 million scholarships with an allocation of Rs47 billion to students on merit basis. It was promised to provide essential food items to about 20 million families at 30 percent discount. The PM distributed cheques among Imams of Jamia mosques under the KP government’s financial assistance programme, among students under the Ehsaas Education Programme and poor women under the Kafalat Programme.

The PM could have said and done all this before the announcement of the LG election schedule. He could have even postponed the publicity of his achievements in poverty reduction till after the KP polls. Publicising them in Peshawar 10 days before the LG election could be interpreted as influencing the electorate.

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That the violation of election rules has been committed by the head of the government is highly serious. If a PM violates rules and defies a constitutional body, his ministers are likely to go far beyond him. This is bound to encourage lawlessness in the country. The situation poses a challenge to the ECP. Then Indian CEC T.N. Seshan, known as the man who cleaned up the Indian electoral system, once refused to take phone call from PM Narasimha Rao during a crucial election which could lead to Rao’s losing office. Many will wait to see how the ECP deals with the violation of Code of the Conduct by Mr Khan.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]

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