Use of black money in election campaign will blur political landscape.
In order to maintain the integrity of elections, voices at all levels are raising concerns about banning the use of black money in election campaign.
The use of such money would blur the political landscape while raising doubts about the credibility and transparency of the fragile democratic process.
The Election Commission’s political finance cell may seek limited legal recourse to stem the flow of money that may pose challenges to the integrity of the electoral system.
What is even more troubling is the lack of attention to a topic that fundamentally shapes the integrity of democracy in Pakistan.
The lack of systematic research or studies on the economics of elections in our country is a matter of concern.
Due to the absence of relevant data, the journalistic work on this issue is only based on hearsay and speculation.
Some evidence supports the notion that such wealth flows into the electoral system from unknown sources.
There is little oversight on the transfer of funds for election campaign financing by the State Bank, Election Commission of Pakistan or any other government agency or civil society platform.
Due to which those who want to understand the economics of elections have to resort to informal surveys and briefings.
While relevant stakeholders are also interviewed to understand the facts.
Research for this report has revealed that the country’s savings pool, including banks, savings schemes, private fund management companies, real estate, etc., has seen an unusual increase during the five-yearly election cycles since 2008. Activity not found.
While campaigning involves hiring printers, painters, advertisers, caterers, decorators, transporters, private jet operators, social media warriors, channel operators, commodity dealers, salaried workers etc.
Thus, the transaction of a significant amount of money increases economic activity.
Efforts to get information from the State Bank were also unsuccessful.
Privately, some bankers, on the condition of anonymity, have confirmed that there is no significant increase in the level of bank withdrawals now or in the 2018 elections after the announcement of the election date and the finalization of the nomination papers by the Election Commission not seen.
The statement of Director General of Central Directorate of National Savings Hamid Raza Khalid was also similar to the position of the bankers.
Speaking on the phone from Islamabad, he said, “We have not seen an increase in the trend of withdrawing money from banks near the elections.”
Realtors and fund operators, when contacted, gave vague statements, but feedback from several people active in these sectors indicated a lack of urgency among those selling shares, along with slow business.
Responding to a question in this regard, Ahmad Bilal Mehboob, CEO of Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PLDAT), expressed keen interest in the subject and recognized its importance.
He lamented the lack of research on the subject and stressed the need for increased laws governing the financial aspects of elections.
Rashid Chaudhry, National Coordinator of Free and Fair Election Network (FAFN), stated that without a mechanism to trace and track the money trail of private election expenditure, estimated to run into billions of rupees, there is a strong impression that unknown sources are providing this money.
Although the Election Act sets expenditure limits for candidates seeking seats at the federal or provincial level, it inadvertently creates loopholes in the legal framework that allow them to cross these limits without fear.
According to the election law, candidates must open a separate election account when submitting their nomination papers.
However, there is no restriction on disclosing the source of funds deposited in this account.
A candidate legally contesting for a seat in the National Assembly can spend up to one crore rupees in election campaign.
While a limit of Rs 40 lakh has been fixed for the candidate of the provincial assemblies.
However, the Election Act exempts contesting candidates from the responsibility of accounting for all expenses incurred by others on their behalf.
Imagine that candidates for all 336 National Assembly seats abide by the expenditure limit.
And since there are only three candidates per constituency, multiplying one crore rupees by 1008 candidates (three times the number of 336 candidates) comes to a staggering amount of Rs 10 billion.
At this time, a total of 22,751 candidates will contest for seats in the national or provincial assemblies.
The final date of the elections is nearing and it seems that the Election Commission is busy, which is why it has not got time to ensure financial transparency and remove regulatory loopholes.
Despite contacting the Political Finance Wing of the Election Commission for their position, we could not get their response at the time of filing this report.
Zubair Faisal Abbasi:
Islamabad-based development policy expert Zubair Faisal Abbasi was candid in explaining his point of view.
In response to a question on the matter, he said, “Under the current legal framework, it is extremely difficult to accurately identify the various and varied sources of funding, unless someone starts reporting on it from the inside.”
This point was illustrated in the case of a particular political party in Pakistan where alleged irregularities were observed.
The Election Commission’s political finance cell collects financial records from all candidates.
The real challenge lies in the fact that not everyone answers it seriously and perhaps not every answer is fully scrutinized by the Election Commission.
Legal mechanisms to enforce the regulations and follow-up measures have so far been largely ineffective.
It seems that “sunshine rules” are needed to ensure transparency in the transfer of campaign funds.
The amount declared by the candidates to the Election Commission is often more than what they spend during the election campaign.
It is the right of voters to know who is funding whom and for what purpose.
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