January 17, 2024
ISLAMABAD – The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday directed officials overseeing poll management to avoid altering candidates’ electoral symbols since the printing of ballot papers is in progress.
The ECP issued directives to returning officers, district returning officers, and other election officials a day after allegations from political parties — PPP and PTI — accusing the electoral watchdog of either denying or assigning wrong symbols to their candidates.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had on Monday claimed that returning officers had allotted the wrong electoral symbols to his party’s candidates in Punjab “under pressure from PML-N”.
The PPP leader vowed to take the matter to the election commission and courts, adding that the PML-N wanted to contest elections “by keeping its opponents out of the ground”.
A similar concern was raised by the party’s Punjab leader Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed who alleged that the ECP had made the forthcoming polls controversial by denying the party’s electoral symbol to seven of its candidates.
Likewise, several independent candidates belonging to the PTI had challenged the decision of the returning officers to issue different election symbols to them, and made the ECP, returning officers (ROs) and district returning officers (DROs) respondents in the petition
In the petition before the Peshawar High Court, former federal minister Shehryar Afridi, who is contesting elections on NA-35 Kohat, had petitioned the court against the allocation of the election symbol ‘bottle’.
Today, the ECP issued a statement, asking RO, DROs and election officials to refrain from changing symbols for poll aspirants.
“All provincial election commissioners, ROs, and DROs have been directed to refrain from altering electoral symbols at this stage. If changes are necessary, seek permission from the ECP, as the printing of ballot papers has begun and changing symbols may not be possible,” the electoral watchdog said in a notification.
The ECP said the print had begun on Monday.
In a later statement shared on social media platform X, the ECP spokesperson said that a proposal was being considered where the only available recourse would be to postpone the election in those constituencies where the process of altering electoral symbols did not cease.
The spokesperson emphasised the time constraint, stating that the ECP lacked sufficient time to reprint ballot papers should the ongoing process of changing electoral symbols persist.
The ECP had on Dec 15 issued schedule for general elections, underlining that election symbols will be allotted to political parties on Jan 13 with polls set for Feb 8.