ISLAMABAD: Taking another step towards holding of the forthcoming general elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Thursday issued the schedule for the polls, according to which the 2018 general election will be held on July 25. ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob announced the schedule during a press conference.According to the schedule, a public notice will be issued by returning officers today (June, 1, 2018). The period of filing of nomination papers is set from June 2 to 6, while June 7 is fixed for publication of names of the nominated candidates.Last date for scrutiny of nomination papers is June 14, while last date for filing appeals against decisions of returning officers regarding nomination papers is June 19. Last date for deciding of appeals by appellate tribunal is June 26.Publication of revised list of candidates will be made on June 27.Last date for withdrawal of candidature and publication of revised list of candidates is June 28, while the ECP will allot election symbols to contesting candidates on June 29.Meanwhile, the commission on Thursday issued a provisional code of conduct pertaining to the upcoming elections.The six-category code outlines rules and regulations political parties, candidates and election agents have to adhere with during the elections. The categories include general conduct, campaign, publicity, meetings and processions, polling day, and miscellaneous.According to the poll conduct, political parties and candidates have been asked to refrain from propagating opinions contrary to the constitution and the ideology of Pakistan. They have also been told to uphold the rights and freedom of the people of Pakistan.ECP rules also bar the government or any authority from posting or transferring any official appointed or deputed in connection with polls without prior ECP approval.Failure to abide by the code of conduct and maligning the electoral body in any form whatsoever would entail contempt, according to the rules drafted by the commission.Political parties have been told not to receive money from prospective candidates in the guise of ‘party funds’ as tickets are awarded.Five percent tickets must be awarded to women, in line with laws which call for the equal representation of qualified men and women in the legislative bodies of Pakistan. Candidates have been instructed against damaging ballot papers or official documents during the elections.The ECP has capped the elections expenses per National Assembly seat at Rs 4 million, and at Rs 2 million per provincial seat. To ensure further transparency, the electoral body has bound candidates to open exclusive accounts for this purpose in any bank across Pakistan so their transactions can be monitored. Furthermore, candidates are required to submit a complete account of the expenses incurred during elections to ECP within ten days of polling.Political parties have been advised to refrain from influencing print or the electronic media, or resorting to violence of any kind against news outlets.Public display of firearms has been banned from meetings, processions, and other activities related to the elections. The ban will remain in force until twenty-four hours after the consolidation of the results by the ECP.The president, the caretaker cabinet and other government officials will not take part in election activity.The code of conduct proposed for the general elections has banned political parties from using funds from the public exchequer to run political campaigns in the print or electronic media.The document states that party flags are also not allowed on public property or space, albeit under written agreement from local authorities or payment of fees, under which exceptions can be made. Parties and candidates are also required to refrain from printing religious verses on posters and advertisements.ECP has proposed a blanket ban on graffitti, hoardings, and billboards.Political parties and candidates have been directed to inform district authorities about any planned processions or rallies. The ECP has also asked authorities to ensure this does not impact smooth flow of traffic.The ECP has barred political parties from holding more than one public meeting in a single constituency. The use of abusive language against opponents will be treated as a ‘corrupt’ practice, ECP has warned.Political leaders, local government officials and elected representatives have also been barred from inaugurating completed or announcing new development works till elections have been held. Violations will be treated as “illegal practices”.“On polling day, there shall be a complete ban on all kinds of campaign, canvassing, persuading of voters for vote, soliciting of vote and not to vote in the election or canvassing for a particular candidate within the radius of 400 meters of a polling station. Violation will be treated as an illegal practice,” reads a rule.ECP has advised political parties to educate voters on how to cast votes but refrain from exhibiting notices, signs, banners or flags.The ECP also issued a 14-point code of conduct for foreign observers in the upcoming general elections.According to these rules, no person will be permitted to observe election process unless he presents accreditation card issued by ECP or its authorized officer.Official shall display their official identification badges issued by ECP all the time and shall present it to the election officials and other security officials when requested.Observers shall respect sovereignty of Pakistan as well fundamental rights and freedom of its people.Observers shall maintain good behaviour, respect others including exhibiting sensitivity for culture and customs of the country and shall observe the highest level of professional conduct throughout their job.Observers shall adhere to the laws of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and respect the authority of ECP.Observer shall follow instructions issued by the ECP and state authorities, including security officials and shall maintain and respectful attitude towards them.Political impartiality shall be maintained by observers at all costs while observing the election process. They shall not exhibit any bias or preference with regard to local authorities, political parties and candidates as well as any issue related to the process of election.Observers shall not conduct or participate in any activity that may generate an impression of favouring or opposing any political party or a candidate.Observers will have right to ask any question and to clear any query but they will not obstruct directly or indirectly elections process.Observers shall ensure that all their observations are impartial, objective and depict highest standard of accuracy.Individual observer shall not make personal comments about his observation or conclusion on the election process to the media.Observation organisations or groups shall ensure that only their nominated persons give comment about the election process.TimelinePublic Notice to be issued by the Returning Officer on 01.06.2018Dates for filing of nomination papers with the Returning Officer by the candidates 02.06.2018 to 06.06.2018Publication of names of the nominated candidates 07.06.2018Last date for scrutiny of nomination papers by the Returning Officer 14.06.2018Last date for filing of appeals against decisions of the Returning Officer rejecting/accepting the nomination papers 19.06.2018Last date for deciding of appeals by the Appellate Tribunal 26.06.2018Publication of revised list of candidates 27.06.2018Last date for withdrawal of candidature and publication of revised list of candidates 28.06.2018Allotment of Election Symbol to contesting candidate 29.06.2018Polling day 25.07.2018Published in Daily Times, June 1st 2018.