RAWALPINDI: PML-N's Raja Sagheer Ahmed was notified as the winning candidate from PP-7 Rawalpindi by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday after scrutiny of the rejected votes polled in the July 17 by-polls was completed.
The development comes hours before the crucial election of the Punjab chief minister which the Opposition alliance of the PTI and the PML-Q is likely to win due to their strength in the provincial legislature. The PML-N victory on the seat will not have a significant impact on the party’s position.
The number of votes of the PML-N candidate increased by 12, taking the total number of votes to 68,918 from 68,906, while the PTI votes increased by 6 to reach 68,863.
After the verification process was completed, the ECP issued the notification of the success of PML-N's Raja Sagheer from PP-7.
It is pertinent to note that according to the unofficial result of all 260 polling stations of PP-7 Rawalpindi, Raja Sagheer Ahmed won with 68,906 votes while Mohammad Shabbir Awan of PTI got 68,857 votes.
After losing the seat, the PTI had challenged the results and sought the recounting of votes which was rejected by the ECP.
On Thursday, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, who headed the bench that heard the case, read out the brief order and said that the petitioner could neither prove any fraud nor irregularity during the by-poll.
He was also not able to state the reasons for the need for recount.
Both the candidates appeared before the bench along with their counsel.
At the outset of proceedings, CEC Raja took the PTI candidate to task for his claim before the Lahore High Court that his application seeking recount was not being entertained by the ECP, observing that the PTI had not filed any application until 5pm on Wednesday.
He maintained: “You submitted a request to the R&I Department but withdrew it after 10 minutes and filed the petition after the high court judgment.” He then called the officials of the R&I branch and asked them to submit a written account of everything that happened, saying that things should be clear.
In response, Awan’s counsel said his client was present in the court on the orders of LHC.
The CEC questioned the PTI candidate over his claim about a breakdown of the Result Transmission System (RTS), pointing out that the RTS had not been used in the by-polls. Awan’s counsel said they had approached the court as the margin between the votes of the two parties was very thin. “Our law states that if the margin is less than five per cent, a request for a recount can be filed. As soon as the results were announced, my client had immediately approached the RO and later the court for a recount,” he explained.
On the contrary, Raja Sagheer’s lawyer called the PTI request baseless, saying that they failed to prove their point even in front of the RO. "Initially, they were talking about the entire constituency, now they are talking about 21 polling stations. The PTI stance is invalid because it keeps changing," he said.
Awan, in his petition filed with the ECP, claimed that votes of deceased individuals had been polled in the constituency. The petition listed alleged irregularities at the 21 polling stations where it sought a recount.
It alleged that the number of votes polled at two polling stations was greater than the number of votes actually polled. On the other 19 polling stations, it alleged different irregularities including illegal issuance of ballot papers, forgery of Form 45, stamping of ballot papers by PML-N polling agents in connivance with the polling staff and double stamping to render PTI votes invalid.
It claimed that the result of PP-7 had been delayed though all the presiding officers had reached the RO office in time and the result was announced at 1:40am on 18-07-2022, whereas the results for other constituencies were announced well before 8pm on 17-07-2022, which raised questions on the counting of votes in the constituency.
The petitioner claimed when the results of 265 out of 266 polling stations were uploaded on the RTS, he was in the lead by 312 votes and ultimately was shown to be a loser when the delayed result of the last polling station came.
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