Daska election null: ECP

February 26, 2021

By News deskISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan Thursday declared the NA-75, Daska by-election as void and ordered fresh poll/re-poll in the entire constituency on March 18, 2021.The...

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By News desk

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan Thursday declared the NA-75, Daska by-election as void and ordered fresh poll/re-poll in the entire constituency on March 18, 2021.

The five-member bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, announced the short order here, to be followed by the detailed one. The verdict was announced after resuming hearing Thursday (which was held earlier Tuesday), and reserving the judgement till 3:00pm afternoon in relation to the application filed by the PML-N candidate Syeda Nosheen Iftikhar and then announced the order.

The commission said in the order, “The arguments heard and record perused. From the perusal of available record produced by the parties, the returning officer as well as collected by the commission through different sources, we have come to the conclusion that conducive environment was not available for the candidates and voters of the constituency and the poll in the constituency has not been conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in a transparent manner, incidents of murders, firing, injuries, bad law and order situation, creating harassment to voters and other circumstances leading to make the process of result doubtful/unascertainable. This commission in exercise of powers under Article 218(3) of the Constitution read with Section 9 (1) of the Elections Act, 2017, declares the poll held on February 19, 2021 in NA-75, Sialkot-IV as void and orders fresh poll/re-poll in the entire constituency on March 18, 2021.” Additionally, the ECP ordered the Establishment Division to suspend Sialkot's deputy commissioner and district police officer (DPO) as well as the Daska assistant commissioner. Federal and provincial governments have also been told to suspend the aforementioned three officials as well as Daska deputy superintendent of police (DSP) and Sambrial DSP. They will also not be appointed for any election duty in future, the statement said.

The body also directed the government that the Gujranwala Division commissioner and Gujranwala Range regional police officer be transferred from Gujranwala Division and their positions be changed.

The ECP said it would be decided later if the ECP itself will take action against the officials or the government.

The Punjab chief secretary and IGP have also been summoned on March 04 for "ignoring their duties" during the NA-75 by-poll.

Reacting to the ECP order or re-poll, the PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, said, “the people of Daska have got back their right, and then while referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan, she wrote that the fake Sadiq and Ameen (honest and righteous) has been issued the certificate of vote thief through the ECP verdict.

She alleged that Imran Khan also turned out to be a kidnapper. She pointed out that the question bigger than re-polling remained as to where this conspiracy was hatched: whose orders the chief secretary, the IGP, commissioner and other government officials were complying with?

“For transparent polls, it is imperative to hold them accountable,” she remarked.

The PML-N leader said that despite the state and the ministers’ coercion and threats, the Election Commission stood its ground and how it would have been difficult for it to announce this decision, which added to its sanctity and credibility.

Meanwhile, her spokesman Muhammad Zubair also spoke to journalists and said that the government was caught red-handed and that the ruling party adopted tactics that even the ECP was surprised at. He continued that the atmosphere in NA-75 on the day of the election was not conducive for voters, citing a firing incident in which two people were killed and three were injured.

He accused Prime Minister Imran Khan of being at the forefront of the conspiracy and said that criminal proceedings should be initiated against the latter.

The PML-N candidate Nosheen Iftikhar termed the decision as historic one and thanked her voters for casting their ballots despite being beaten by batons and sticks. “We are ready again to face the vote thieves,” she remarked.

The PPP senior leader and Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani insisted that not only there should re-poll but also those responsible must be punished. He added if the Election Commission succeeded in punishing them, then they would never repeat it again: they should be made an example for others.

Earlier, the ECP bench, consisting of the CEC and four members Justice (R) Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi (Punjab), Justice (R) Mrs Irshad Qaiser (KP), Nisar Ahmad Durrani (Sindh) and Shah Muhammad Jatoi (Balochistan), heard the case.

The PTI lawyer Barrister Ali Zafar spoke on the 'disappearance' of presiding officers of 20 polling stations in the constituency and said that it was not right to say that a delay in results means these were altered.

“The manner of delay can give rise to suspicion (that) results were altered,” the ECP's Sindh member responded to him. Then, Barrister Ali Zafar pointed out that there was no set time for presiding officers to report at the returning officer's office. He said that phone batteries die after an entire day of usage. Upon this, the ECP Member KP quipped, “Did everyone's phone battery die, including the driver's. The PTI lawyer insisted that the RO had requested a re-election in 14 polling stations on the basis of speculation.

He noted that there was no controversy in 337 out of 360 polling stations and that an attempt was made to prove a rigging conspiracy. According to the lawyer, the late arrival of a presiding officer was not an illegal thing (on the basis of) which, a re-election should be conducted.

The PML-N lawyer Salman Akram Raja demanded a forensic audit of votes cast in the 20 polling stations whose results are questionable. To this, Barrister Ali Zafar said that it would have been better if presiding officers announced the results, and added that a tribunal could have been approached after the outcome was announced. He contended that it was the tribunal's job to conduct the inquiry, not that of the ECP.

He pointed out that none of the presiding officers had talked about being kidnapped or falsifying results. The PTI lawyer said that the commission would first have to declare that the presiding officers were lying.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz said the government is proud that the institutions are independent.

“The Election Commission has given a short decision and we will consult our legal team on legal options. We are trying to hold elections on which no one is able to raise a finger,” the minister said while talking to journalists outside the Election Commission secretariat.

Shibli Faraz pointed out that there is no pressure on the institutions now, and the institutions are completely independent. He said the government had the resources, but it did not use any means to put pressure on the institutions. He alleged that PML-N and previous governments promoted the politics of rigging and money laundering.

“In all the elections held during their tenures, rigging and money were used. These are the people who consider the decisions in their favour to be correct and when the same institutions, be it the Election Commission or the courts, rule against them, they do not accept it. It is their attitude that losing is not acceptable to them. We have defeated this mindset and will continue to do so. More important to us is the independence of institutions. We want democracy and development and prosperity of the country,” he said.

Shibli alleged that the PML-N had always engaged in politics of money and bullying from Changa Manga till now: They destroyed institutions and weakened democracy.

“Today we think that they have done a great deed. We know what Rana Sanaullah, Ahsan Iqbal and Javed Latif were doing there. If we had to do rigging, we could have done it in Wazirabad. The PML-N first called for re-polling at 20 polling stations, then changed its stance but we abide by the decisions of the institutions,” he said.

The minister charged that the PML-N and PDM kept on changing their positions like their announcements about movements and then changing dates and reversing those decisions.

Special Assistant to the PM Usman Dar said that this was the first decision of its kind in the history of Pakistan by the ECP. He pointed out that the PML-N came here with a request for 23 polling stations. He added that more evidence of independence and sovereignty of institutions could not be found in the 73-year history of Pakistan.

Adviser to PM on Interior and Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar said all the national institutions including the ECP were working independently without political influence of the government.

He said the PML-N was in a habit to attack and criticise the institutions including armed forces and judiciary for the sake of its personal gains. He said the government was committed to eliminate and discourage horse trading practice to conduct the upcoming Senate polls through open ballot to ensure more transparency.

On the other hand, the PPP demanded resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar in the wake of the decision of the Election Commission.

The PPP Secretary General Syed Nayyer Hussain Bukhari termed the decision of the ECP a victory of rule of law. He said robbery of vote has been proven and it is an FIR against the rulers.

Former information minister and PML-N central secretary information Marriyum Aurangzeb said it was a historic decision of the ECP, which had served the people of Daska by providing them another opportunity to elect their true representative. She hoped that in the upcoming elections, decisions would make against those who attempt to steal elections or harass voters.

The intention of the selected prime minister to steal the vote was buried, she said adding that the PML-N would win the by-election on March 18.

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