ECP said political parties must not campaign against any personor on the basis of religion – by Iftikhar A.Khan

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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) warned candidates on Sunday against seeking votes in the name of religion or sect.

Briefing reporters on the rules of the game for May 11 polls, a senior ECP official said political parties, candidates and their supporters must not campaign against any person on the basis of religion, ethnicity, caste or gender. Candidates and their supporters shall refrain from speeches arousing parochial and sectarian emotions and controversy between gender, community and linguistic groups.

He said political parties and candidates must uphold people’s rights and freedom guaranteed in the constitution. Candidates must scrupulously avoid indulging in activities regarded as offences in the election laws, such as bribing voters, indulging in intimidation and impersonation, canvassing within 400 yards of polling stations, including setting up of camps, and holding public meetings during 48 hours before the start of polling.

Political parties, candidates and their supporters must refrain from deliberate dissemination of false and malicious information and must not indulge in forgery and disinformation to defame other political parties and their leaders.

Carrying and displaying all kinds of weapons in public meetings, processions and on the election day will be banned. Firing into the air, use of crackers and other explosives at public meetings and at or near polling stations will not be allowed.

Replying to a question, the official said under section 78 of the Representation of People Act-1976, “a person is guilty of corrupt practice if he indulges in bribery, impersonation or undue influence, makes or publishes a false statement or submits false or incorrect declaration concerning personal character of a candidate or any of his relative to adversely affect his election or to promote or procure the election of another candidate, unless he proves that he has reasonable grounds for believing, and does believe, the statement to be true, relating to the symbol of a candidate or withdrawal of a candidate, in respect of his educational qualifications, assets and liabilities, or any liability with regard to payment of loans or adherence to party affiliation”.

Those who call upon or persuade any person to vote, or to refrain from voting, for any candidate on the ground that he belongs to a particular religion, province, community, race, caste, sect or tribe will also fall under the category.

So will be those persons who lend, hire, borrow or use a vehicle or a vessel to transport voters to and from polling stations or cause or try to cause any person present at a polling station to depart without voting.

The official said under section 79 of the act, “a person is guilty of bribery, if he, directly or indirectly,… receives or agrees to receive or contracts for any gratification for voting or refraining from voting, or for being or refraining from being a candidate, or for withdrawing from an election, gives, offers or promises any gratification to any person for the purpose of inducing a person to be, or to refrain from being, a candidate…, an elector to vote, or refrain from voting, or a candidate to withdraw”.

He said “gratification” included money or estimable in all forms of entertainment or employment.

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