Candidates continue to defy Code

ISLAMABAD, April 26, 2013: The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN)’s Constituency Long-Term Observers have found out that the political parties’ candidates are continuing to defy the Code of Conduct notified by the Election Commission of Pakistan, as they gathered reports from 152 constituencies across the country between April 11 and 19, 2013, says a Pre-Election Update 35.

The observed constituencies comprise 97 in Punjab, 26 in Sindh, 20 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), five in Balochistan and two each in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).

Half of the observed Code of Conduct violations were visual campaign materials exceeding allowable sizes, including banners/panaflexes, hoardings/billboards, leaflets/handbills and posters (417, or 52.2%).  One-quarter of violations noted were banned wall chalking/graffiti (201, or 25.1%). Together these two categories constituted three-fourths (618, or 77.3%) of the 799 violations recorded by FAFEN observers.

The remaining 181 violations consist of the use of loudspeakers (68 instances), illegal voter inducement (36 instances), weapons display (30 instances), rallies causing inconvenience (24), aerial firing/fireworks (12), and speech arousing controversy or abusing other candidates (11).

Violations were committed by 19 political parties and independent candidates. Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) had the highest number at 226 (28.3%), followed by independent candidates (148, or 18.5%), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) (142, or 17.8%), Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) (118 or 14.8 %) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) (59, or 7.4%).

The ECP press releases on 22 March and 6 April 2013 indicate that ECP “has appointed more than 400 monitoring teams across the country to monitor political activities in General Elections-2013.” Based on its observations of violations around the country of the ECP Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates, FAFEN recommends the following:

  1. ECP monitoring teams should respond to violations identified by FAFEN pre-election observers in each National Assembly constituency as well as reliable information gathered by other partisan and non-partisan sources.
  2. ECP should communicate all actions taken against violators to the media and the public.

In all, 618 instances of illegal visual campaign material were reported across the country between April 11 and 19. The highest number of violations was reported from Punjab (538) followed by Sindh (49), KP (29), and one each in Balochistan and FATA.

Oversized banners/panaflexes were seen at 301 places (48.7%). Parties’ and candidates’ wall chalking/graffiti were seen at 201 locations (32.5%), despite a blanket ban. FAFEN observers also noted posters above the allowed size at 64 locations (10.4%), hoardings/billboards at 49 locations (7.9%) and leaflets/handbills larger than the allowed dimensions at three locations (0.48%).

PML-N committed almost one-third of the violations (179, or 29%), followed by PTI with almost one-fifth (114, or 18.4%), independent candidates (104 or 16.8%), PPPP (97, or 15.7%), and JI (45, or 7.3%).

Other parties with visual materials that violated the ECP Code include Pakistan Muslim League (PML) (17 instances), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) (14), PML-Functional (PML-F) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islami Fazal ur Rehman (JUI-F) (10 each), Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) (7), Sunni Tehreek (6), Awami National Party (ANP) (5), Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) (3), PPP-Shaheed Bhutto (2), and Balochistan National Party-Awami (BNP-A), Awami Workers Party, Awami Tehreek, Tehreek-e-Jafaria and Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP)(1 each).

Wall chalking was observed at 201 places: 166 in Punjab, 19 in Sindh and 16 in KP. Candidates belonging to PTI had the most violations (51), followed by PML-N (50), independent candidates (33), PPPP (32), JI (21), MQM (5), ASWJ (3), PML (2), and one each by ANP, JSQM, JUI-F and JWP. Thirty-two (32) of these violations were on government property and 169 on private property.

FAFEN observers noted 49 hoardings larger than the ECP’s allowed 3×5 feet size: 43 in Punjab and three each in Sindh and KP. Candidates belonging to PML-N had the highest number of violations at 18, followed by PTI (10), independent candidates (8), PPPP (5), JI (2), PML (2), and ANP, MQM, PML-F and ASWJ with one each.  In all, 34 of these violations were on private and 15 on government properties.

FAFEN observers found 64 instances in which campaign posters violated ECP size specifications: 52 in Punjab, eight in Sindh and four in KP. The most violations in this category were by PML-N (16); followed by PTI (13); independent candidates (12); PPPP (11); JI and JUI-F (3 each); JSQM and PPPSB (2 each); and MQM and BNP-A (1 each). These violations included 54 on government property and 10 on private property.

The maximum size for leaflets/handbills allowed by the ECP in its Code of Conduct is 9×6 inches.  FAFEN observers reported one violation in this category by PML-N in Punjab, and one each by PPPP and MQM in Sindh.

FAFEN observers recorded 11 violations of the ECP Code of Conduct related to speech and actions tending to arouse controversy or abusing opposing candidates.  Seven cases were in Punjab, two in Sindh, and two in KP.  Violators included two PML-N candidates, two independent candidates, and one candidate each representing JI, PPPP, PML, JUI-F, and PML-F.

Two female candidates were the targets of harassment or abuse.  In Bhakkar (NA-73, Punjab), an independent female candidate alleged that she and her family were being harassed, and that an unidentified person entered their house but escaped.  In Layyah (NA-182, Punjab), a female MQM candidate alleged that one of her opponents was harassing her by using abusive language.

Seven candidates of six political parties made inflammatory speeches against their opponents.  Two PML-N candidates in NA-14 (Kohat, KP) and NA-117 (Narowal, Punjab) made such speeches against other candidates, as did one JI candidate in NA-12 (Swabi, KP), PPPP candidate in NA-189 (Bahawalnagar, Punjab), PML candidate in NA-191 (Bahawalnagar), and JUI-F and PML-F candidates in NA-201 (Ghotki, Sindh).

Two independent candidates in NA-73 (Bhakkar) and NA-75 (Faisalabad, Punjab) made speeches tending to arouse sectarian or other controversy or conflict.  In addition, the JI candidate in NA-12 (Swabi, KP) urged people to “vote for Islam” in the upcoming elections, which is reportedly also banned by ECP.