ISLAMABAD: An examination of filled Form-45s issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) after the July 25 polls has revealed widespread irregularities, The News found.
Forms for more than 2,000 polling stations from 10 constituencies of Sindh and Balochistan, randomly selected by this correspondent, revealed a variety of irregularities.
They ranged from errors in vote-counting to result forms lacking the names of candidates and, in a few cases, a highly improbable 100 percent turnout at polling stations. Most of the Form 45s in three out of the 10 constituencies examined by The News were filled out with similar handwriting. Many were not signed by the presiding officers.
The irregularities were detected only from those polling stations where Form-45s did not carry the requisite signatures of the polling agents of contesting candidates. At certain polling stations, where the voter turnout was recorded at 100 percent, all ballots were cast in favour of a single candidate.
An ECP spokesperson acknowledged the possibility of such irregularities. During the counting process, the presiding officers worked under extreme pressure and sometimes made mistakes. However, 100 percent voter turnout was not possible and should be considered an irregularity, the spokesman said. He asked The News to provide the list of constituencies where irregularities were detected and promised that the ECP would take up the matter with the concerned returning officers.
Mudassir Rizvi, senior director of programmes at the Free and Fair Election Network, said such irregularities had been found in previous elections too. Form 45s of any constituency was often full of irregularities because of the lack of professionalism prevalent among the presiding officers. Most of them did not even know how to fill the vote-count column on the forms.
The News’ examination revealed that Form-45s of both female and male polling stations of several groups of constituencies had been filled with similar handwriting. This was the case for Sindh Assembly constituencies PS-30, 34, 51, 74, 91, 108, 110, 137, 151, 155 and 166.
Likewise, another set of similar handwriting was observed on forms covering the PS-54, 62, 65, 90, 96, 117, 165 and 195 constituencies. The examination of Form-45s for NA-263 recorded voter turnout of almost 100 percent in seven polling stations, where more than 90 percent of votes cast benefitted a particular candidate.
All 1,286 registered votes were cast at one station of PS-108. The News found many corrections written on its Form 45. There were 555 registered female voters, but the presiding officer initially counted 600 votes cast by women. The error was later corrected. But 1,800 out of 1,848 registered votes were cast at the same polling station.
At a polling station in PS-131, 1,780 out of a possible 1,800 registered votes were cast, with one candidate garnering 1,666 votes. Of the 683 votes polled out at a PS-132 station with 800 registered voters, almost 90 percent were in favour of one candidate; here, the Form-45 did not include the names, signatures or thumb impressions of the presiding officer and his assistant. The same was evident at a polling station in PS-40. At a polling station in PS-185, 800 out of 806 votes were cast for the same contestant. At a station in PS-215, 1,626 out of 1,630 tallied votes favoured the same candidate.
Veteran ECP officials said the scale of detected irregularities warranted the formation of a high-powered judicial commission by the government. Former ECP secretary ECP Kanwar Dilshad said the nature of these irregularities was serious and raised questions about electoral transparency in the affected constituencies.
The president of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development Transparency, Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, concurred with the suggested formation of an investigative commission, saying it should order a forensic examination of the affected Form-45s where the scale of irregularities appeared to be grave.