ECP issues dos and don’ts for caretaker govts as election bells start ringing

Liaquat Ali

Islamabad: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday asked the caretaker federal and provincial governments to ensure their assistance in holding of fair and transparent elections in the country.

The electoral watchdog has sent guidelines to the interim governments as the South Asian country gears up for general elections after months long political uncertainty in the country.

The National Assembly was dissolved prematurely last week by former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif. As per the Constitution, elections must be held within 90 days when assemblies are dissolved prior to the end of their term.

In the notification, the ECP sad it is “mandated with the constitutional duty to organise and conduct elections in terms of Article 218(3) of the Constitution and to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the elections are conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with the law and that corrupt practices are guarded against”.

“It has become imperative that the election commission shall take all necessary steps under the Constitution and prevalent law for the smooth conduct of general elections,” the notification reads.

Besides seeking assistance from the caretaker governments for the transparent elections, it asked them to ensure level-playing field for all political parties.

It also instructed them to comply with all notifications, directives and provisions of Section 230 of the election law, which explains the functions of an interim government.

The top electoral body has barred the caretaker governments from transfer and posting of any public official without the prior approval in writing from the ECP.

It asked the caretaker governments to “ensure that all kinds of recruitments in any ministry, division, department or institution under the federal, provincial and local government[s] are banned with immediate effect, except with the prior approval of the ECP and except recruitments by the federal and provincial public service commissions and those government organisations where test/ interviews have already been conducted before this day”.

The ECP has stopped the caretaker governments from launching and executing developments projects at federal and provincial levels except those which have been approved before the issuance of this notification.

It states that all development funds relating to local government institutions in provinces and cantonment boards for new schemes will be frozen immediately after the announcement of a schedule for the general elections.

“The caretaker governments shall not attempt to influence the elections or do or cause to be done anything which may, in any manner, influence or adversely affect free and fair elections,” the notification adds.

It furthers stated that “the caretaker governments, being non-political entities can take actions or decisions regarding existing bilateral or multilateral agreements or the projects already initiated under the Public Private Partnership Authority Act, 2017, the Inter-Governmental Commercial Transactions Act, 2022 and the Privatisation Commission Ordinance, 2000 under intimation to the commission”.

It has also directed all members of the caretaker governments, including prime minister and chief to submit a statement of “assets and liabilities of his spouse and dependent children as on the preceding 30th day of June on Form-B” to the commission within three days of assuming the post.