Election Watch Update - Feb 13

The Election Commission of Pakistan says political parties that have not held internal elections will not be eligible to contest elections. Over a hundred parties have not informed the ECP about internal polls, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. Ninety political parties have also been instructed to submit financial statements.

The ECP’s Director General Sher Afghan said that the ECP will ask for access to databases of the State Bank of Pakistan and the Federal Board of Revenue. The ECP is also suggesting a ban on hoardings and banners before the election – one of the biggest advertising tools for political parties. It will also be sending a reference to the law ministry on making voting compulsory. The ECP is also looking at a way to give internally displaced people the right to vote.

PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif said his party has completed its ‘homework’ on a caretaker government and urged the current government to also move forward. He said the government should pick a nominee for caretaker prime minister from the PML-N’s shortlist. According to several newspapers, President Zardari was supposed to meet Sharif to pay condolences for the death of Sharif’s brother. However while President Zardari says he was denied the opportunity to meet Sharif, the PML-N chief said Zardari condoled with him in a phone call and his party said that their leader does not want to meet the president. Chaudhry Nisar has been reportedly instructed by Nawaz Sharif to talk to the government.

The Supreme Court dismissed Pakistan Awami Tehreek/Minhaj-ul-Quran leader Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri’s petition on the reconstitution of the ECP on Wednesday. The court's order is available here [PDF]. During the proceedings, the Supreme Court stopped Qadri from making a statement in court, while the Attorney General of Pakistan told the court that Qadri could address the court. Qadri also hit out at Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and questioned if taking an oath from Britain was better than [Chaudhry’s] oath [under the Provisional Constitutional Order] from former president, Pervez Musharraf. Qadri also said on Wednesday that he was the target of a ‘media trial'. He also said later that the Supreme Court had not listened to his petition but had attacked him over his dual nationality, On Tuesday, the court said that dual national citizens were not allowed to interfere in the country’s politics. Qadri is a citizen of Canada and Pakistan, and the Supreme Court has disqualified several members of parliament on the grounds that they were dual national citizens and had failed to disclose this when contesting elections. 

The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs has asked the government to explain its agreement with Dr Qadri.

The Sindh High Court has ordered for the constituencies in the province’s Naushehro Feroze district to be redrawn. There are two National Assembly seats (NA-211 and NA-212) and five Sindh Assembly seats (PS-19, PS-20, PS-21, PS-22 and PS-23) in the district.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said elections will be held on time despite security concerns.

The PML-Q will only be given tickets for seats that it has previously won from, according to PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. The PML-Q and the PPP are negotiating seats and an electoral alliance. The PPP is set to contest 10 seats from Gujranwala, Punjab.

The Jamaat-e-Islami and the PML-N accused the ECP staff conducting voter verification in Karachi of being involved with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in errors in electoral rolls. The voter verification process will end on February 16.

Dunya speculates that the PML-N attending an all parties conference by the Awami National Party could mean that the two parties will form an electoral alliance. The ANP has said that it will contest elections independently.

The newspaper also reports on election campaigning in Lahore, with elected representatives already out and meeting with voters in their constituencies. Representatives are also meeting with the elders of Punjabi castes to be able to gain their support.

Commentary:

Muhammad Ziauddin looks at the ‘disappointment’ that the second round of voter verification in Karachi has been, and writes that the only option available to the chief election commissioner is to cancel the results of the verification and come up with an alternative method. – The Express Tribune