Friday April 12, 2024

ECP ‘may miss’ deadline to post Forms 45, 46, 47 on its website

ECP is already under fire for allegedly not been able to conduct elections fairly and with transparency

By Our Correspondent
February 22, 2024
Paramilitary soldiers stand guard outside Pakistan’s election commission building in Islamabad on August 2, 2023. — AFP
Paramilitary soldiers stand guard outside Pakistan’s election commission building in Islamabad on August 2, 2023. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: With scores of pleas, challenging the elections in constituencies, particularly of the National Assembly, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by the law has time till February 22 to put on its website the related Forms 45, 46 and 47, concerning February 8 polls.However, a senior ECP official conceded it was unlikely for the electoral body to meet the legal deadline despite best of efforts, something it could not do in the past as well, owing to various reasons.

He explained that some 300 petitions, regarding difference between forms 45 and 47 had landed at the ECP on the orders of high courts. The official pointed out that many petitioners were carrying Forms 45 which were different from the ones the respondents had in possession.

The ECP is already under fire for allegedly not been able to conduct elections fairly and with transparency, and for the first time, a strong voice was raised in the Senate session a day earlier that the chief election commissioner should be arrested and a case of high treason be initiated against him.

However, during the same sitting, a legislator from Balochistan had contended could a presiding officer or a commissioner rig elections and insisted on talking about those, who were behind it.

Section 95 (8) of the Elections Act 2017 makes it binding on the returning officers (ROs) to send to the commission signed copies of the Consolidated Statement of the Results of the Count and Final Consolidated Result together with Results of the Count and the Ballot Paper Account, as received from the presiding officers, within 24 after the consolidation proceedings.

Similarly, Section 95(10) of the Act reads, “On receipt of documents under sub-section (8), the Commission shall, within fourteen days from the date of the poll, publish the documents on its website.”

Separately, the ECP’s inquiry committee probing Rawalpindi commissioners allegations has completed its work within the stipulated period of three days and will submit its report to the commission today (Thursday).

“The committee had statements of the DROs and ROs before it as well as the transcript of the former commissioner Rawalpindi’s news conference. The forum also had deliberations on what options the electoral body can exercise in the backdrop of his allegations,” sources said.

They noted the DROs and ROs had denied the allegations of rigging and result manipulation hurled by the commissioner.

They contended that the report drafting would be completed Thursday and same day it would be presented to the commission. ECP Member Sindh Nisar Ahmad Durrani headed the committee.

Meanwhile, the ECP issued the formal notification of the returned candidate-Chaudhry Salik Hussain-of Pakistan Muslim League from NA-64, Gujrat-III.

According to the notification, Salik pocketed 100,379 votes while his closest opponent, the PTI-backed Qaisra Elahi received 89,795 votes.

Separately, the ECP has reserved its verdict on PTI-backed candidate Salman Akram Raja’s petition against the alleged change in the election results of NA-128, Lahore.

A two-member bench of the commission heard the election petition regarding NA-128 while the petitioner appeared along with advocate Makhdoom Ali Khan, while lawyers Shahzad Shaukat and Zia-ur-Rehman also appeared on behalf of Awn Chaudhry, his rival candidate.

Salman Akram Raja said that according to Form 45, he had won, but had been defeated in Form 47 and pointed out that according to Form 45, there was a clear difference between the votes cast in the provincial assembly and the National Assembly, according to him, 110,000 votes were cast fake.

The Awn Chaudhry’s lawyer argued that this was not a case of the ECP but of the election tribunal, according to the law, adding that it is not necessary to have a candidate around while furnishing Form 47.

The bench later reserved its judgement in the matter.

Likewise, the ECP has reserved its verdict in the election case concerning NA-235 and NA-236 constituencies in Karachi. ECP Member Sindh Nisar Ahmad Durrani and Member Punjab Babar Hassan Bharwana heard the case.

The Sindh member remarked that the ROs of NA-235 and NA-236 had submitted the reports while the petitioner Saif-ur-Rehman’s lawyer said that they had only one request that there was a difference between Form 45 and Form 47. The Sindh High Court had directed the ECP to deliver the verdict by February 22.

He contended that it was for the commission to decide which Form 45 were original and which were fake. If the results have been made on fake Form 45, then the results of the constituency will have to be declared null and void.

To this, ECP Member Nisar Durrani questioned whether the matters should be sent to the election tribunals. To which the lawyer replied that according to the Elections Act, the ECP can give decisions on these applications, adding that four political parties have a Form 45, whereas Form 45 of Muttahida Qaumi Movement is different.

ECP member Babar Hassan Bharwana said that Thursday was the last day to give decisions on 50 applications, how could the commission scrutinise all Form 45? The lawyer said that according to Form 45, Saif-ur-Rehman received 113,000 votes, whereas only 1,100 votes were written in Form 47.

To this, the ECP member remarked, “I wonder who can dare to convert more than one lakh votes.”

The lawyer replied that it is the responsibility of the ECP to determine the facts and prevent such rigging in the future.

Later, the ECP reserved its verdict.