KARACHI: With a ban imposed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on the display of large billboards and banners under its code of conduct, there seems to be a lack of election fervour on the city’s streets. With only two weeks to polling day, several political parties have raised concerns over what they term as ‘attempts to sabotage the electoral process’ by not allowing them to campaign in the city.
In a letter addressed to the ECP secretary, Muttahida Quami Movement -Pakistan (MQM-P) Convenor Dr Khalid Maqbool claimed that the government was sabotaging the party’s campaign through the police in violation of ECP’s rules. The MQM-P leader said the party’s banners and posters were being removed by the police in various areas while Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf were given a free pass to place campaign material across the city.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Karachi President Saeed Ghani, in a press conference on Sunday, expressed the same concerns. He lamented that ECP’s rules were not being implemented uniformly and PPP’s banners and posters were being taken down by law enforcers in different parts of Karachi.
Despite this confusion, the city is witnessing a boom in the sale of banners, party flags and other election material for the promotion of candidates.
In violation of ECP’s orders, banners on polls are still being used by political parties and party flags are being produced in bulk.
Under the ECP code of conduct, the election expenses of a candidate shall include the expenses incurred by any person or political party specifically for the candidate.
If any person or party incurs any election expenses on behalf of any candidate for stationery, postage, telegrams, advertisement, transport or for any other item whatsoever, such expenses shall be deemed to be the election expenses incurred by the candidate.
Under the code of conduct, no person or political party shall affix or distribute a poster with the size of 18 inches x 23 inches, handbills/ pamphlets/ leaflets of measurement of 9 inches x 6 inches, banners of measurement of 3 feet x 9 feet and portraits of 2-feet x 3-feet.
Meanwhile, in a large market for advertisements located in Liaquatabad’s Al Karam Square, party flags, posters, pamphlets and leaflets are being prepared with enthusiasm all day and night long.
The labourers preparing the promotion material said the was is not as high as they had anticipated. However, they shared that even then, help from additional labourers was being taken to complete orders.
Banner makers stated that media and ink stock required to make banners was purchased in high quantities in expectation of large orders. The price of a banner has risen by Rs2 per square foot, they said.
According to the labourers, the demand for banners and poll banners is higher compared to the demand for large-sized boards due to the ban by ECP.
Many political parties are using trucks and loading cars as canvasses to put up campaign material. The vehicles are parked at the city’s busiest streets and intersections to promote the political parties and their candidates.
Apart from the major political parties, Pak Sarzameen Party, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, MQM-P, PPP and Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan, independent candidates are also preparing material for their campaign, shared the labourers.
Hopeful that with a rise in political activities in the run-up to elections, their business too will flourish, the labourers believed that holding the elections in a peaceful manner will not only prove beneficial for the citizens and candidates but also for the business community.
Of banners, flags and the campaigning spirit
Work on making banners through screen printing on cloth banners is on the rise as screen printing does not require electricity, all work is done manually and the cost is lower than that of a regular paper banner. The time it takes to prepare one banner through screen printing is said to provide employment to between five and six people. According to painters, the increased demand for election material has provided employment opportunities to many daily wage workers.
Apart from banners, countless party flags are also being prepared for election campaigns. Tailors can be seen working diligently in the Liaquatabad market with additional craftsmen and helpers to sew flags after the screen printing process is complete. Explaining the different stages of making a flag, the workers said the party signs and slogans are first printed onto the flags, after which the flags are sent to sew. Once ready, the flags are tied to wooden sticks so it can be placed on poles. The sewing of the flags is given on a lump sum contract, while the worker is paid according to the flags worked on per day.
According to the tailors sewing flags, the election season has given them a good income opportunity. “We have been waiting for five years for these days” a flag worker said, adding that holding the elections in a peaceful environment means their opportunities grow.
Carpenters, welders, painters and owners of small loading vehicles are also getting jobs in the wake of increased demand for campaign material for elections.
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