ISLAMABAD: The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) Constituency Long-Term Observers (CLTOs) have recorded 272 violations committed by 15 Pakistani political parties and independent candidates in 66 constituencies across the country between March 24 and 29, says FAFEN’s Pre-Election Update 24 issued here.
According to the press release, visual campaign materials exceeding allowable sizes (posters, banners/pena flexes, hoardings/billboards and leaflets/handbills) and banned wall chalking were the majority of the 272 violations recorded by FAFEN CLTOs. Observers recorded 244 visual campaign material violations (89.7 percent) during the six days of observation.
FAFEN has deployed CLTOs in every National Assembly constituency across the country to observe the election campaign period. CLTOs report violations of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates, among other topics. The following Pre-Election Update is based on reports gathered from CLTOs from a total of 66 constituencies — 51 constituencies in Punjab, eight in Sindh, five in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and one each in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).
In all, 244 incidents of illegal visual campaign material were reported across the country between March 24 and March 29. These violations include posters, banners/pena flexes, hoardings/billboards, and leaflets/handbills exceeding ECP specified dimensions. Violations also include instances of wall chalking, which has been completely banned by ECP.
The highest number of violations were reported from Punjab (228), followed by Sindh (14) and KP (2). No reports were received from Balochistan. The violations were committed by 15 political parties and independent candidates.
According to the ECP Code of Conduct, banners/pena flexes exceeding 3×9 feet are not allowed. Similarly, hoardings bigger than 3×5 feet, posters exceeding 2×3 feet and leaflets/handbills bigger than 9×6 inches are also banned.
More than half of the illegal materials were oversized banners/pena flexes, which were seen at 129 places (53 percent), and more than one-third was parties and candidates’ graffiti seen at 90 locations (37 percent), despite a blanket ban. FAFEN observers noted oversized hoardings at 14 locations (6 percent) and posters at 10 locations (4 percent). There was just one report of an oversized leaflet/handbill.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had the highest number of violations at 100 (41 percent), followed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (51, or 20.9 percent), Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (23, or 9.4 percent), Jamaat-e-Islami (20, or 8.2 percent), Pakistan Muslim League (nine, or 3.7 percent), Sunni Tehreek (seven, or 2.9 percent), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazlur Rehman (five, or 2.1 percent), Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (four, or 1.6 percent), Ahle Sunnat-wal Jamaat (two, or 0.8 percent) and one each by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Samiul Haq, National Party, Pakistan People’s Party-Shaheed Bhutto, Awami Workers Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM). Seventeen violations (7 percent) by independent candidates were also recorded.
Oversized banners/pena flexes (larger than 3×9 feet) were observed at 129 places in various constituencies across the country. Out of these locations, 122 were in Punjab and seven in Sindh.
Candidates belonging to PML-N had the highest number of violations at 59, followed by PTI (18), PPPP (17), JI (nine), ST (7), PML (6), independent candidates (5), PML-F (4), Ahle Sunnat-wal Jamaat (2), JUI-F (1), and Awami Workers Party (1). Most materials were seen on private property (122), and a few on government properties (7).
ECP has banned wall chalking in all forms as part of election campaigning. Despite this ban, wall chalking was observed at 90 places: 83 in Punjab, five in Sindh and two in KP. Candidates belonging to PML-N again had the most violations (31), followed by PTI (28), JI (11), independent candidates (7), JUI-F (3), and PML, JUI-S, NP, PPP-SB, JSQM and MQM (1 each). Most examples (70) were on private property, and 20 on government property.
FAFEN observers noted 14 hoardings above the ECP’s allowed 3×5 feet size: 13 in Punjab and one in Sindh. Candidates belonging to PML-N had the highest number of violations at seven, followed by PTI (3), PPPP (2), and PML and JUI-F (1 each). Ten examples were on private property, and four were on government property.
The ECP allows posters sized no more than 2×3 feet as part of its Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates. FAFEN observers found 10 instances in which campaign posters violated this condition: nine in Punjab and one in Sindh. The most violations in this category were by independent candidates (five), followed by PML-N and PTI (two each), and PML (one). Six instances were on private property, and four were on government 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, during the observation period.
According to ECP’s Code of Conduct, the use of loudspeaker is not allowed for election campaigns except at election meetings. FAFEN observers noted 15 instances in which candidates and/or their supporters were found using loudspeakers for campaigning. Six of these incidents were recorded in Punjab, five in KP and four in Sindh.
Both PTI and PML-N had three violations each. All PTI violations were in Punjab, while the PML-N had two violations in KP and one in Punjab. There were two instances in which PPPP candidates and/or their supporters were found using loudspeakers – one each in Sindh and KP. MQM, too, had two violations (one each in Sindh and KP).
FAFEN observers noted two instances (both in Punjab) of independent candidates and/or their supporters violating the ban on loudspeakers for political campaigning. JI and JUI-F had one violation each (JI in Sindh and JUI-F in KP).
As per ECP’s Code of Conduct, the political parties, contesting candidates and their supporters shall not indulge in offering gifts or gratifications or inducements to any person to stand or not to stand as a candidate, or to withdraw or not to withdraw his candidature.
FAFEN CLTOs reported five incidents — all from Punjab — in which election candidates tried to attract voters by giving them food or other items or making promises.
In Mianwali (NA-71), a PML candidate gave sewing machines to voters. Another independent candidate in the same constituency distributed food items among potential voters.
In Okara (NA-146), the PPPP candidate promised jobs while speaking at a rally. In Gujrat (NA-104), a PML candidate also made unspecified promises at a rally, while the PPPP candidate for Sheikhupura (NA-132) promised more jobs during a rally.
According to ECP’s Code of Conduct, the display of weapons and firearms in public meetings and processions is banned. FAFEN observers recorded four incidents — three in Punjab and one in Sindh — involving the display of weapons between March 24 and 29. PPPP workers were seen carrying guns in a gathering in Kambar Shahdadkot (NA-206).
PML-N workers in Mianwali (NA-72) were also seen carrying guns. In Narowal, PTI workers were seen with weapons. Lastly in Vehari, supporters of an independent candidate carried guns.
Aerial firing and use of firecrackers and other explosives at public meetings by political parties and candidates are not allowed under the ECP Code of Conduct. PML-N workers were seen setting off firecrackers in a meeting at the home of their party’s candidate in Vehari (NA-168). In Mianwali (NA-71) too, the PML-N workers were seen setting off firecrackers.
Two instances of aerial firing, both by PML-N supporters/workers were recorded by FAFEN CLTOs. The first instance was in Hyderabad (NA-221) and the second in Mianwali (NA-72).