Campaign Finance

In Pakistan, there are only a few regulations on election campaign and party finance. The parties can only receive contributions on individuals and members. The Political Parties Order, 2002 does ban contributions from foreign sources. And parties and candidates must report their funding sources annually.

The state does not provide any direct or indirect support or free access to media, making parties having to depend on parties’ wealthy members.  The expenses relating to elections and campaigning must be incurred only by the candidates. The expense limits are set by The Representation of People Act, 1976.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has the legal authority to regulate all aspects of the Election Campaign to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law, and that corrupt practices are guarded against as prescribed by Article 218 (3) of the Constitution

There is no official definition of campaign period or when the political parties and candidates can launch the campaign. As mentioned in Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates, the campaign period ends 48 hours before the polling.

The Code of Conduct for Political Parties 2013 includes key provisions to ensure a peaceful and fair campaign environment, including a ban on incitement to violence, bribery of officials, campaign financing and fair conduct.

Party Contributions

Political Parties Order, 2002 states that political parties can accept contribution made by members or supports. It shall be recorded by the parties. The direct and indirect contributions, in case, kind, stocks, hospitality, accommodation, transport, fuel, and provision of other such facilities, by any foreign government, multi-national or domestically incorporated public or private company, firm, trade or professional association are prohibited. The parties may accept contributions and donations only from individuals.

The law does not have any specific limits of the contributions. Any contribution or donation which is prohibited will be confiscated in the favor of the State.

Pakistan’s Legal Framework on Campaign Regulations

Pakistan’s Constitution:

-Art. 19 and 19 A on Freedom of Expression, Right to Information

-Art 218 (3), regulating ECP’s power to make “necessary arrangements”, including the Media and

Political Parties Guidelines:

-Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002


-The Representation of the People’s Act, 1976, Section 104

-Political Parties Order 2002, Section 18

-The Representation of the People’s Act (ROPA) 1976, Sections 78-98

-ROPA Section 49 contains detailed provision for a limit on election expenses

-Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure empowers the authorities to ban a campaign in a certain location by invoking security concerns

ECP Guidelines:

-Code of Conduct for Political Parties 20134

-Media Guidelines for Elections 20135

Regulations on expenditures

The Representation of People Act, 1976 declares that election expenses means any expenditure incurred before, during and after an election or payment made, whether by way of gift, loan, advance, deposit, or otherwise, for the arrangement, conduct or benefit of, or in connection with or incidental to the election of a candidate, including the expenditure on account of issuing, circulars or publications.

All the election expenses of a candidate should be incurred by the candidate. No other person shall incur any expenses of such candidate whether for stationery, postage, telegrams, advertisement, transport or for any other item.

The expenses of a contesting candidate should not exceed 1 million and 5 hundred thousand rupees in case of an election to a seat in the National Assembly, and 1 million rupees in case of an election to a seat in a Provincial Assembly.

A candidate should keep bills, receipts, and other documents for every payment made in respect of election expenses, except the amount less than 5 hundred rupees.

Reporting of party’s fund

In the Political Parties Order, 2002, it regulates that parties should submit the consolidated statement of accounts of the party audited by a Chartered Accountant to the Election Commission within 60 days from the close of each financial year. The submission should contain a) annual income and expenses, b) sources of its funds, and c) assets and liabilities.

Return of election expenses for contesting candidates

Every contesting candidate should submit the return of the election expenses within 30 days of the publication of the name of the returned candidate. The submission should include (a) a statement of all payments made by him together with all bills and receipts, (b) a statement of all disputed claims, (c) a statement of all unpaid claims, if any, and (d) a statement of all moneys, securities or equivalent of money received from, or spent, by any person for the benefit of the candidate, specifying the name of every such person.

The returns and documents submitted by the candidates should be kept by the Returning Officer in his office or at such other convenient place as he may think fit and shall, during one year from the date of their receipt by him, be open to inspection by any person on payment of the prescribed fee. The returning officers should provide copies of any return or document to applications made with payment of the prescribed fee.

Campaign Period and Key Campaign Themes

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) issued a revised code of conduct for political parties in October 2013, which among other things, provided the framework for election campaigning.

The Code of Conduct required political parties and candidates to:

– Not undermine the ideology of Pakistan or ridicule its judiciary or armed forces;

– Abide by all directives issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan;

 -Uphold the rights and freedoms of the people of Pakistan as guaranteed by the Constitution;

Additionally, the Code sets out limits on campaign methods, public rallies, political meetings, size of campaign materials and their placement, use of government resources, interaction with the media and use of fire arms, voter education.

In 2013 Election, the campaign period lasted for three weeks, with a 48-hour campaign silence before the opening of the poll on 11 May 2013.

Campaign Practice

The traditional campaigning style of mass rallies and large meetings with party leaders was possible only for some parties and in some regions. This was because the campaign environment was marred by violence and the threat of violence. This violence was perpetrated by non-state actors, consisting mainly of the Pakistani Taliban, but also nationalist insurgents in Balochistan. In the weeks leading up to the election, the Pakistani Taliban stated their intent to target three parties; the PPPP, MQM and ANP. These parties were targeted for the perceived secular nature of their politics during their joint stint in power as members of the outgoing coalition government. The Taliban also declared the elections un-Islamic and vowed to disrupt the electoral process. This was offset by a group of senior clerics issuing a fatwa (religious decree) declaring that voting is a national duty.

Over 130 people were killed in the three weeks leading up to the 2013 election, including three election candidates. Most of the attacks that resulted in these deaths were claimed by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. The MQM and ANP suffered from fatal attacks on their offices, rallies and party workers. The threat of violence also kept the PPPP’s top leadership from openly campaigning in any of the provinces, except in interior Sindh. A candidate for the PPPP (also the son of a former Prime Minister) was kidnapped two days before the election from a campaign rally in southern Punjab. When the Mission departed Pakistan on 16 May, this candidate had not yet been found.

In response, these parties jointly vowed to see through the electoral process. They resorted to electronic and print media advertisements, video links, Skype and mobile phone technology, door-to-door campaigning and corner meetings to reach out to voters. This campaign style was particularly widely adopted in Karachi and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where these parties have traditional strongholds.

By contrast, parties perceived to have taken a softer stance in relation to militancy were left largely unharmed. They were able to campaign openly and actively, holding large rallies and public meetings. Amongst these parties, campaigning was competitive and vibrant and significantly, concentrated in the Punjab province. As Punjab also represents a majority of the seats in the National Assembly, coverage of campaigning in the province dominated electronic media, leading to conclusions that the main electoral battle was being fought in Punjab.

Media and civil society consistently highlighted the discrepancies in the security environments across provinces and parties. Political parties also took up the issue strongly, blaming the caretaker government and Election Commission for failing to provide a fairer campaigning environment. In relation to this the Mission notes a statement made by a citizen observer group, the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), which fielded some 40,000 election observers across the country. It said that the pre-election violence which made the election one of the most deadly in the country’s history “was not met with an effective counter-attack by state security forces, raising concerns of patronage of certain political interests.”



Election Laws Volume I,
The Representation of People Act, 1976,
Pakistan General Elections 11 May 2013, Report of the Commonwealth Observer Mission, 2013,
Text of ECP conduct code for general election 2013,
Toolkit for Reporting on Pakistan’s 2013 Elections, Democracy Reporting International, 2013,

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