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Over 128.5m voters to decide fate of 175 political parties; ROs issue public notice inviting applications

PESHAWAR, Dec 19 (APP): Over 128.5 million registered voters in Pakistan would decide the fate of 175 political and religious parties in the 2024 general election.

Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP’s) data has revealed that total registered voters in Pakistan are 128,585,760 including 69,263,704 male and 59,322,056 female, who would decide the fate of about 175 political and religious parties on February 8, 2024.

On Tuesday, the Returning Officers (ROs) issued public notice for filing of nomination papers for the national and provincial assemblies seats, paving the way for smooth conduct of general election.

Chief Secretary Khyber Pathunkhwa, Nadeem Aslam Chaudhry while addressing district returning officers here said that today was a very important day in the country’s election history after the ROs had issued public notice, inviting candidates to file nomination papers for the national and provincial assemblies seats.

He assured the Deputy Returning Officers (DROs) all-out support in conduct of free, fair and transparent elections in Khyber Pakthunkhwa and said that conducting the general election was a national obligation and together we would be able to hold free, fair and transparent elections in the country.

Urging people and government departments to unite for election, he directed the relevant authorities to ensure accessibility of persons with disability voters to the polling stations so that they could easily exercise their right of vote on February 08, 2024.

According to ECP’s election schedule for 2024 general election, nomination papers could be filed with respective returning officers by the candidates on December 20-22, 2023 while names of all nominated candidates would be published on December 23.

Similarly, December 24-30 has been fixed as the last date for filing of appeals against decisions of the Returning Officers regarding rejection/acceptance of nomination papers while the last date for deciding appeals by the Appellate Tribunal was January 03, 2024.

The last date for deciding appeals against decisions of the Returning Officers regarding acceptance or rejection of appeals by the appellate tribunal is January 10, 2024 while a revised list of candidates would be published on January 11.

The publication of the revised list of candidates has been fixed as January 12 while election symbols to candidates would be allotted on 13th January and polling would be held on February 08, 2024.

This election program would also apply to the seats reserved for women and non-Muslims in the National Assembly and provincial assemblies of Punjab, Sindh, KP and Balochsitan provinces. The last date of filing of a separate priority list for seats reserved for women and non-Muslims before the Returning Officer is December 22, 2023.

Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has issued guidelines for candidates filing nomination papers for seats of national and provincial assemblies. Fee of obtaining one nomination paper’s form is fixed as Rs10, and one candidate can submit a maximum five nomination papers with different proposers/seconders.

The fee for submission of a nomination paper for a national assembly seat is Rs 30,000 and Rs 20,000 for a provincial assembly seat that was non- refundable. The fee of nomination paper could either be submitted directly to the Returning Officer or through bank draft in RO’s name in any National Bank of Pakistan’s branch and its receipt should be attached with the nomination form.

The nomination papers could be obtained from respective returning officers at office working hours from 8:30a.m. to 4:30p.m. from December 20-22, 2023. The attested copies of computerized national identity cards of the candidates and their proposers /seconders besides vote certificates issued by the concerned office of district election commissioner and income tax return of last three years and passport should be attached with the nomination papers.

Political experts said that past performance of political and religious parties’ governments and large baradaris (communities) would play a crucial role in deciding fate of political leaders.

“The people eagerly await the 2024 election to decide the fate of about 175 political-religious parties,” said Professor Dr. A.H Hilali, former chairman, Political Science Department, University of Peshawar while talking to APP.

“We have seen the performance of almost all mainstream political parties including PPP, PMLN, JUIF, ANP, Jamaat e Islami, PTI and MQM in last two decades in Pakistan where people are closely seeing what are new in its election manifestos,” he said.

He said that PPP leadership was taking credit of BISP assistance, 1973 Constitution, development works in Sindh and 18th Constitutional Amendment while PMLN was advocating for constructing motorways, lawari tunnel, restoration of peace in KP and Karachi and atomic tests at Chagi in 1998.

Similarly, he said that ANP was trying to attract voters about renaming NWFP as Khyber Pakthunkhwa and construction of universities in the province while PTI leadership was highlighting Sehat Card, BRT and Ehsas program.

“2024 election would be totally different from others because no political party was favorite and people would decide the fate of all 175 parties on the basis of their past Govt performances and implementation of election manifestos.”

He said that Istehkam e Pakistan Party and PTI Parliamentarians were the newly established parties whose leaders were in the field informing the masses about their programs and development initiatives if voted to power.

Dr Hilali said that free and transparent elections were very important for continuity of democracy and addressing the country’s challenges like economy, climate change issues besides controlling price hike and inflation that adversely affected the common man.

“Without free and transparent elections, democracy has no meaning. It is genuine elections that provide the citizens with uniformity managed way to voice their opinions and chose who and what is best for them,” he said.

As the citizens are the ultimate authority in any democracy, they can voice their opinion if they do not like the performance of a political party or the government, he said and added, the regular holding of general elections ensures better check on the performance of political parties and accountability.

Dr Hilali said that a strong community would also play a key role especially in rural areas of Pakistan and any candidate get their support would get an advantage over others.

Meanwhile, the ECP issued criteria of eligibility of contesting candidates of national and provincial assemblies seats. The candidates should be the citizen of Pakistan having 25 years of age at the final date of filing of nomination paper . The candidate should be a registered voter in any part of Pakistan for national assembly and of the province contesting for provincial assembly’s seats.

It is mandatory for candidates of women reserved seats of the national assembly to be a registered voter of that province and fulfill eligibility criteria mentioned in Articles 62-63 of the Constitution.

The proposers and seconders of candidates contesting on general seats should be voters of the relevant constituency while proposers and seconders of national and provincial assemblies women and non-Muslim seats to be voters of that province.

The proposers and seconders of candidates for national assembly seats of non-Muslims should be registered voters in any part of the country. The priority list issued by the political parties for reserved seats needs to be attached with the nomination papers of the candidate while a special account regarding election’s expenses is required to be opened by the candidates in any scheduled banks or details of an already opened account with nomination papers besides attaching bank statements.

Dr Hilal urged the government departments, political parties and the entire nation to unite for the general election to take the ship of democracy to a safe shore.

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