Only time will tell if the upcoming polls will be the most transparent in the country’s history. But one thing is for sure, the looming elections are to become the most expensive polls ever.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) sought on Wednesday a supplementary grant worth Rs5.1 billion – out of which Rs0.5 billion has been allocated to the army – from the government to conduct the upcoming elections for national and provincial assemblies, according to a statement submitted by Law Minister Farooq H Naek in the upper house.
Sources in the ECP said there will be around 75,000 polling stations in the country during the upcoming polls, adding that a major chunk of the supplementary grant, Rs1.259 billion, would be spent on polling staff expenditures.
According to the breakdown of the proposed expenditures submitted by Naek, Rs1 billion would be spent on printing ballot papers, forms, envelopes, posters and placards; Rs0.5 billion for the army to deploy soldiers at sensitive polling stations; Rs450 million for publicity; Rs87.5 million for establishing improvised polling stations; Rs148 million on procurement of election material and Rs215 million on procurement and transportation of ballot boxes and voting screens.
The government spent Rs1.85 billion for the polls held in 2008, while the army was given Rs195 million for providing assistance.
Furthermore, Rs21 million has been allocated for casual telephones of District Returning Officers (DROs) and Returning Officers(ROs); Rs16.6 million for office stationery; Rs450 million for publicity charges; Rs90 million for honoraria to ECP employees; Rs76.88 million for indelible ink; Rs750 million for allocation to the ECP and PECs and Rs5 million for the training of DROs and Returning Officers.
Meanwhile, later in the day ECP held a meeting, during which it approved the code of conduct for the next elections. Headed by Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakharuddin G Ebrahim, the meeting incorporated various suggestions made by members of a Senate Standing Committee on election issues.
Director General (elections) ECP Sher Afgan told reporters that a summary has been sent to the law ministry for legislation on mandatory voting, adding that the commission has prepared a draft law proposing amendments in 23 electoral laws, including jail sentences for corrupt practices.
The commission also decided to increase the fine money for corrupt practices from the existing Rs5,000 to Rs100,000. These practices include impersonation, rigging at polling stations, bribery to voters and election staff and intimidating voters. Imprisonment for such violations will continue to be three years.
Responding to a question, he said that the election commission had banned recruitments announced by the government ahead of elections, adding that ECP had the powers to take such decisions. In order to substantiate his point, he referred to the Article 218 of the Constitution as well as a judgment of the Supreme Court that empowered the commission to take such actions even before the announcement of the election schedule.
He said the ECP also decided to request concerned district and session judges to expedite the trial of over 30 fake degree holding lawmakers, the cases of whom had been referred to them last year.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2013.