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‘ECP is striving to hold free and fair elections,’ says CEC in message ahead of polls

ISLAMABAD(Daily P.Times) : Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza on Tuesday assured voters that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was “trying its best to hold free, fair and unbiased elections”. In a video message released by the election body, Raza urged voters to fulfill their “duty towards the nation” by casting their votes responsibly on polling day on July 25. Over the past few days, the ECP has released multiple notifications for voters, polling staff and political parties, explaining what to do and what not to do on polling day. On Monday, the election body issued a list of requirements that a ballot paper would have to meet in order to be included in the counting process. Ballot papers that are missing the official code mark or assistant presiding officer’s signature or have a paper attached to them will not be considered valid, according to the ECP. Last week, the ECP released a notification informing voters, polling staff and political parties of actions that would constitute as crimes on election day and would fall under the jurisdiction of the district returning officers. Asking a voter who they voted for, spoiling ballot papers or stamps in any way, taking a picture of the ballot paper are some of the actions that would land the offender in jail for upto three months, result in fines upto Rs100,000, or both. Meanwhile The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday ordered three election candidates from the Allahu Akbar Tehreek (AAT) to submit copies of their computerised national identity cards (CNICs) and passports after it emerged that their names are included in the United Nations’ terror watchlist, media reported. A three-member ECP bench, headed by Abdul Ghaffar Soomro the ECP member from Sindh heard the case. Mohammad Ashraf, who is running from the NA-149 constituency in Sahiwal; Zafar Iqbal, who is contesting from the PP-113 constituency in Faisalabad; and Ehsan Ranjha from the PP-67 constituency in Mandi Bahauddin, appeared before the ECP today. No representative from the interior ministry appeared before the bench. The counsel for AAT candidates argued that it was “unfair” to summon them one day before elections. The bench ordered the candidates in question to submit the copies of their CNICs and passports along with a written response to the ECP. The hearing was adjourned until August 29. The candidates will still be able to contest elections on July 25. However, if the ECP decides against their eligibility, they will be denotified. The ECP had taken notice of the matter last week and issued a notice to all three candidates, ordering them to appear before the body. The notices, titled “Pakistan’s commitments under FATF and participation of MML in the general elections 2018 from the Allahu Akbar Tehreek” told the candidates that in case of their failure to appear before the ECP, the matter would be decided in their absence.
The banned Milli Muslim League (MML) — a political face of Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaatud Dawa —was denied registration by the ECP, following which the party fielded its candidates from the platform of AAT.

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