Election candidates spent 10 times higher than ECP’s set limit

  • Politicians say forced to spend more than ECP’s prescribed Rs4m due to inflation

ISLAMABAD: As the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) reported massive violations of Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) code of conduct, the commission has directed all candidates to submit details of expenditures on election campaigns as doubts are being cast that almost every candidate violated the expense limit of Rs4 million for electioneering in 2018 general election.

While not specifying a political party, the politicians and campaigners, as well as various business outlets that were involved in election campaigns, confirmed that the expenditure of one candidate’s electioneering was 10 times higher than the allowed limit set by Election Act, 2017.

Last year, a 33-member electoral reforms committee of the parliament had fixed the limit of Rs4 million and Rs2 million for National Assembly and provincial assembly candidates respectively as the expenditure for the election campaign.

Sahibzada Tariqullah, who was a member of the reforms committee, has confessed that expenditure of every candidate was much higher than the limit fixed by the laws. “At the time when the committee was discussing the limit of expenditures, several candidates objected to Rs4 million limit as they informed the committee that generally, the cost for election campaign runs over Rs40 million for an NA candidate. But the law was passed without taking into consideration the ground realities,” he said.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader from Punjab, Sadiqul Farooq, told Pakistan Today that the reason for the higher expenditure of all the political parties during elections is inflation and high rates to rent cars and tents.

“Only angels can attain results within the limit for candidates’ expenditure set by the ECP,” he said.

Nonetheless, Shafqat Mehmood, another member of the committee that helped approve the laws pertaining to elections, doesn’t agree that the rules for expenses have flaws. “It is a law and if we had approved it, it should be obeyed,” he said while talking to Pakistan Today.

But on the ground, the expenditures were much higher and due to inflation, observing the fixed limit was not possible for any candidate who was under pressure to reach every nook and corner of his bigger constituency, said a Karachi based politicians on condition of anonymity.

Several politicians confirmed that operating within the limit was not practical as Rs4 million was not even sufficient for hiring vehicles alone.

In Islamabad’s G-10, Firdous Khan, CEO of Kainat Tours, a car rental Service, told Pakistan Today that monthly rent for SUVs stands at Rs1.1 to 1.4 million per car. “And thousands of such vehicles were hired from Islamabad and Rawalpindi alone,” he added.

A rough estimate by various people running different parties’ campaigns reveals that the total expenses in all 272 constituencies stood at more than Rs68 billion. Though such a flow of cash was healthy for businesses in the country, the problem was that it violated laws.

Senator Sitara Ayaz, who ran election campaigns for Awami National Party (ANP) in Swabi and Charsadda districts, said that the collective expenditures for election campaigns of various parties in a constituency calculated roughly up to Rs250 million. “Expense for an individual candidate was definitely above Rs40 million for electioneering.”

She added that since the people hosting a particular candidate also spend on welcoming their leaders on a daily basis, and if one counts that, then the estimated cost is much higher.

Politicians from other parts of the country confirmed that the total expenditures of one candidate’s campaign were higher than Rs40 million.

Talking to Pakistan Today before the polling day, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Spokesman Fawad Chaudhry confirmed that vehicle expenditures and other costs of any political party for elections are high in all 272 constancies of the country.

Earlier, the Code of Conduct Violations Monitoring System (CCVMS) developed by the PITB reported 18,722 various types of violations in 36 districts of Punjab province alone.