The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has issued a show-cause notice to Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed for violating its code of conduct for the October 14th by-elections. The federal minister have been accused of visiting and announcing development schemes in the provincial assembly constituency ahead of the by-elections, as had Fawad Chaudhry and Ghulam Sarwar Khan, and like them, has been called upon by the Commission to deliver a response in 48 hours.

The rules that Sheikh Rasheed violated is Section 233 of the Election Act, 2017 which lays out a code of conduct that bars visits of ministers and advisors, and announcement or inauguration of developmental schemes in the constituency where election schedule has been announced. A federal minister visiting and appearing to promote certain candidates have the undemocratic effect of influencing the by-elections, and of being unfair to the other candidates. Perhaps what make the facts here at hand more incriminating is that the constituency that Sheikh Rasheed was promoting is one where his own nephew-also coincidentally named Sheikh Rasheed Shafique- is contesting.

There is really not much left to defend Sheikh Rasheed here- he has not tried to hide his campaigning. There is plenty of evidence in the form of several videos and pictures of him at the rallies. Sheikh Rasheed Shafique’s inclusion for ticket for the NA-60 seat in August, a seat where elections were delayed due to the imprisonment of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Hanif Abbasi- was unpopular among Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) members even then, with some calling it an example of the party engaging in nepotism in favour of party loyalists.

What remains to be seen is if Sheikh Rasheed will be held responsible for breaking the law. Imran Khan and PTI came to power on the promise of accountability, meritocracy and transparency, and most importantly, that the accountability will start with the government and its ministers. Now that it has formed government, it needs to show that it can walk the walk by holding ministers accountable for the very crucial cause of free and fair by-elections. Sheikh Rasheed is not the first PTI minister to be seen violating ECP code of conduct; Ghulam Sarwar and Fawad Chaudhry have also overstepped boundaries. So far PTI members of NA and the Chief Minister of the Punjab Buzdar have gotten away with their infractions with a slap on the wrist. Will this instance be another eyewash?