ECP refuses to give people copies of nomination forms

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ISLAMABAD: Serious doubts have been raised on the transparency of the election process at the initial stage as the returning officers across the country refused to provide copies of the nomination papers and annexed declarations to citizens, lawyers and civil society activists on Monday. Despite repeated intimations, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) remained reluctant to issue instructions to returning officers to provide copies of nomination papers and all annexed documents to the general public on demand under the law.

Under the law, any voter can raise objections on the candidature or eligibility of any candidate during the scrutiny process and for this purpose, the Section 12(8) of the Representation of People Act, 1976 (RPA) provides that returning officers will provide not only the copy of nomination papers but also of all the annexed documents, including all declarations, etc, to any citizen who applies for it.
Local people, lawyers and civil society activists in all the cities of Pakistan on Monday tried to obtain nomination papers by applying through proper channels to observe the transparency and implementation of law but in 99 percent cases, returning officers or their staff flatly refused to provide copies of required documents.
If a citizen is not provided with the copies of nomination papers and all annexed documents, he will be unable to raise valid objections on any false statement or wrongdoing of any candidate during the scrutiny process.
When the concerned Section of the RPA, 1976 was quoted before the returning officers, they simply refused to acknowledge it by declaring that they have no permission from the ECP to issue copies of nomination papers and other documents to ordinary citizens and thus these were secret documents.
When in different cases, returning officers were asked that how the process of scrutiny of nomination papers would be possible when they will refuse to provide copies to general public, they responded, “It is not our headache and without ECP directions we will never issue these nomination papers to voters.”
Section-12(8) of Representation of People Act, 1976 reads as, “12. Nomination for election.— (8) The nomination form and accompanying declarations and statements shall be open to inspection by the public, and copies thereof may be made available by the Commission in such manner and on payment of such fee as may be prescribed.”
It is being said by the people that the overwhelming and collective response from whole Pakistan and same response by almost all the returning officers that “ECP has not allowed them to provide nomination papers and annexed documents to ordinary citizens” indicated manipulations by the powerful political elite with connivance of the ECP.
People believed that the process of scrutiny has fundamental importance in the process of elections and without proper scrutiny under law elections can never be declared free, fair and transparent and facts revealed on Monday have diminished hopes of a credible elections.
The Supreme Court (SC) is all set to hear crucially important petition of Dr Mubashir Hassan which raises some basic questions. The refusal of the returning officers to provide general public with copies of the nomination forms on Monday may also be presented before the honourable apex court during Tuesday’s hearing which will set basic principles for the process of scrutiny to be carried out from March 30 to April 5.

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