Tuesday February 27, 2024

ECP told to decide complaints against poll results of 45 Karachi seats

February 13, 2024

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) complaint cell to decide the complaints of candidates of 45 national and provincial assemblies’ constituencies of Karachi with regard to alleged irregularities in consolidating the results issued by the returning officers through Form 47.

Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel stand alert in front of the Election Commission office in the Federal Capital on Feb 9, 2024. — Online
Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel stand alert in front of the Election Commission office in the Federal Capital on Feb 9, 2024. — Online

The direction came on the petitions filed by the independent candidates backed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and the candidates of the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarians (PPPP) against the consolidated election results compiled by the ROs.

The PTI, the JI and the PPPP have challenged the election results of NA-231, NA-233, NA-234, NA-235, NA-236, NA-237, NA-238, NA-239, NA-240, NA-241, NA-242, NA-243, NA-244, NA-246, NA-247, NA-248, NA-249 and NA-250.

They have also challenged the elections results of PS-62 Hyderabad, PS-126, PS-97, PS-98, PS-101, PS-122, PS-94, PS-130, PS-106, PS-107, PS-108, PS-117, PS-120, PS-104, PS-116, PS-127, PS-128, PS-130 and other provincial assembly constituencies.

The petitioners’ counsel said that the results of almost all the national and provincial assemblies’ constituencies in the city as reflected on Form 45, duly attested by the presiding officers, do not tally with the provisional results as reflected on Form 47, issued by the ROs.

The counsel said that while the ROs were preparing the provisional consolidated results, the candidates and their polling agents were neither given notice nor called at the time of preparing the provisional results, claiming that there has been serious manipulation in the results.

He said that the instant matters do not involve any factual controversy, so the court has jurisdiction to redress the grievance of the petitioners who have been subjected to manipulation in the results by the ROs, who, he claimed, altogether changed the results, amounting to disfranchising the large number of voters of the constituencies concerned.

The counsel for the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, and the federal and provincial law officers objected over the maintainability of the petitions on the grounds that alternative remedy is available under the Elections Act, 2017.

They also said that the disputed facts as agitated through the instant petitions require inquiry and evidence, which exercise cannot be undertaken under Article 199 of the constitution. They said the ECP is competent under the law to decide all disputes relating to elections, so all the petitions are misconceived and not maintainable.

They added that the ECP recently passed an order in NA-48 Islamabad, showing that the commission has taken cognisance of a similar complaint filed under sections 8 and 9 of the Elections Act.

The petitioners’ counsel said that though the court can be satisfied as to the maintainability of the petitions, the petitioners would be satisfied if the ECP would be directed to decide the complaints filed by the petitioners within two days, after hearing the petitioners or their representatives so that Form 45 and Form 47 might be scrutinised in thepresence of the petitioners.

The ECP’s counsel, and provincial and federal law officers sought time to file comments on the petitions. The ECP’s deputy director said the petitioners can also approach the incharge of the commission’s complaint cell for scrutiny of the their claims to avoid delay in the disposal of their complaints.

After hearing the arguments of the counsels, an SHC division bench headed by Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi directed the ECP to entertain the complaints of the petitioners against the consolidated results of the ROs, and adjourned the hearing until Tuesday.

The PTI and the JI had claimed that the election results of the national and provincial assemblies’ constituencies in the city have been manipulated on Form 47 despite their having obtained the highest number of votes according to Form 45.

They said that under sections 76 and 92 of the Elections Act, 2017, candidates or their polling agents are entitled to be present at the time of the provisional and final consolidation of the results received from the various POs.

They added that the agents of the petitioners were present at the office of the ROs before the start of the consolidation process, but illegally and by using unwarranted force, they were kicked out of the premises by the police.

They lamented that no one was allowed to enter the premises again, and that the entire process of the provisional consolidation happened without the polling agents being present. Their counsel said that according to the election results as reflected on Form 45, the petitioners have a clear lead of votes in the above-mentioned constituencies, but they have not been declared as returned candidates by the ROs on Form 47.

He said that the only reason for the removal of the polling agents of the petitioners was to steal the elections from them and the electorate of constituencies. He also said that Form 47 and the results were to be announced in the presence of candidates or their agents, but they were announced without following the procedure.

The court was requested to declare the consolidation of the results in the absence of the polling agents of the petitioners as void, and to direct the ROs to prepare Form 47 anew, following all the legal requirements and allowing the agents to participate in the process in accordance with Rule 85 of the election rules.