ISLAMABAD: The 2018 general elections will be held sometime between July 25 and July 31, a private TV channel reported on Saturday, quoting officials from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), with the final list of candidates to be released 28 days prior to the polling day. The candidates will thus get 28 days to run their campaigns instead of 21. The printing of ballot papers will also commence 28 days before the country goes to the polls.The ECP officials said that the upcoming polls, per the constitution, must be held by July 31 under any circumstances. A final schedule is set to be released 60 days in advance, which should fall somewhere in the final week of May. The commission, for the first time in Pakistan’s electoral history, will release a 55-day election schedule as opposed to the 48-day schedule that was the norm until now.According to the ECP’s statistics, the number of registered voters in Pakistan, following the review of voter lists, has reached 104,267,581 – of which 58,463,228 are men and 45,804,353 women. The numbers indicate a widening gap in the ratio of male and female voters in the country. ECP officials recalled that a deadline of April 30 was set for the registration, change, transfers, entry and exit of voters and the commission is now working on formulating electoral lists.Meanwhile, the ECP plans on printing a combined total of 220 million ballot papers for the upcoming national and provincial polls. The officials said that the deployment process of returning officers (ROs) and deputy returning officers (DROs) in the entire country has been concluded. Up to 90,000 polling stations will be made operational for the elections, they added. Meanwhile, the ECP has decided to constitute monitoring teams and appoint district monitoring officers for the upcoming general elections in the country.To keep an eye on poll campaigns and check any violation of laws, the ECP had previously constituted monitoring teams in all districts across the country for the general elections 2013. The Election Act, 2017, provides a legal cover to the concept of monitoring teams and explains in clear terms how these teams will operate and report any violations by contesting candidates and political parties. According to reports, the monitoring teams and officers will be positioned and active before the announcement of the schedule of elections in this month.Section 234(1) of the act reads, “The Commission shall constitute a monitoring team consisting of such number of persons as may be determined by it, to monitor election campaign of the candidates and political parties and report, on regular basis in the prescribed manner, to an officer nominated by the Commission in respect of each district for the purpose of deciding the complaints regarding any violation by a candidate or a political party of any provision of the Act, Rules or the Code of Conduct issued by the Commission”.“Under sub-section 2, it was for the commission to constitute a monitoring team for a constituency or a group of constituencies and determine their terms of reference.Under sub-section 3, the district monitoring officer if receives any information regarding the violation of law it to hold an inquiry and if proven guilty that party would have to pay a fine limited to an amount of Rs 50,000.No other punishment is set for such violation.”Published in Daily Times, May 20th 2018.