ISLAMABAD - The Election Commission of Pakistan is likely to finalise a code of conduct for the media covering the upcoming general elections 2013 to ensure dissemination of credible and unbiased news. 

Officials told TheNation on Sunday that the representatives of media organisations, the code of conduct for media has got its final shape.

The concerned officials further told TheNation that the Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim and other members of the Commission are expected to approve the draft code of conduct on Monday that would follow its implementation.

He said the code of conduct has been finalised based on the deliberations of the representatives of Pakistan Broadcasters Association and PFUJ and other media bodies.

He said a complaint cell would be established at the ECP that would consist of representatives of media as well to look into the issues regarding coverage of the general elections. After the media organisations and bodies had expressed reservations on the code of conduct, the ECP had constituted a Committee to come up with a consensus code of conduct for media. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is preparing to train polling staff for the May 11th, general elections with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

According to a statement issued here, at the launch of its training programme for master trainers, the ECP demonstrated the polling process which includes several new initiatives taken to increase transparency and public confidence in the elections. Initiatives to be introduced at polling stations in the upcoming elections include the use of electoral rolls with voters photographs, new counting forms and tamper evident bags. 

A mock polling station was set up during the launch and the polling process was demonstrated to guests and the media.

A similar mock polling exercise will be used to train over 700,000 Presiding Officers, Assistant Presiding Officers and polling officers who will be engaged on May 11, throughout the country. Marc-Andr‚ Franche, Country Director, UNDP in Pakistan, said, that with these new measures, the polling process has improved significantly.

“The new counting forms enable much greater transparency on voter turnout including recording gender-disaggregated turnout.  The introductions of tamper evident bags to transport these forms will help deter fraud and increase public confidence. About 600,000 tamper evident bags are being provided by UNDP to the ECP for these elections.”

UNDP is providing assistance to the Election Commission of Pakistan in collaboration with UN Women and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in areas such as training, results management and voter education through a three year electoral cycle support project supported by the Governments of Australia, Norway and the European Union. Around 188,552 voters aged above 90 years comprising 141,409 male and 87,143female would cast their votes in upcoming general elections.

According to the voters list compiled by the Election Commission of Pakistan till March 20, among the old-aged voters who would use their right to vote include those even more than of above 100 years of age. In total, there are 3,844 voters above 100 years of age who have been enrolled in voters' list that comprises 1,852 male and 1992 female. As many as 263 voters above 100-year of age have been registered in Balochistan, 16 in FATA, 18 in Federal Area, 355 in KPK, 2524 in Punjab and 673 in Sindh. Among those who are aged 91 to 100 years include 5,332 in Balochistan, 703 in FATA, 1276 in Federal Area, 19,977 in KPK, 128,025 in Punjab and 29395 in Sindh.

According to the ECP spokesman, as the compilation of final voters list is yet in process, the number may even surge. As of March 20, the ECP had enrolled 86,132,751 voters including 48,572,097 male and 37,560,654 female. The Election Commission of Pakistan on Sunday directed the Returning Officers not to refuse issuing or entertaining nomination forms of the persons intending to contest the elections.

The directive was issued following the complaints that the Returning Officers were not issuing nomination forms to the candidates on different grounds.

The candidates had also complained that the Returning Officers were refusing to entertain nomination forms, being presented to them due to some deficiency.

 They also complained that the Returning Officers were demanding a parties affiliation certificate, which was is required to be filed either at the time of filing nomination papers or during scrutiny or even at the time of allotment of symbols.

The ECP, in response to these complaints, directed the Returing Officers not to refuse issuing nomination forms or even entertain a nomination paper being filed before them due to any deficiency. "However, if at the time of scrutiny, the candidate does not remove such deficiency, the Returning Officer may proceed in accordance with law," the ECP said.

According to the ECP, the candidate might file "party affiliation certificate" either at the time of filing nomination paper or during scrutiny of such nomination papers or at the time of allotment of symbols on April 19th.