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Saturday May 25, 2024

ECP rejects plea of Balochistan PA seat aspirant for transfer of vote

A two-member bench of the commission, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and consisting Justice (retd) Ikramullah Khan, heard his application, filed under Section 40

By Mumtaz Alvi
April 13, 2024
Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) signboard in Islamabad. — AFP/File
Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) signboard in Islamabad. — AFP/File 

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has rejected a request from an aspirant of the Balochistan Assembly seat for transfer of his vote from Karachi to Khuzdar so that he could contest polls, saying the process for by-elections, fixed for April 21, was already completed.

A two-member bench of the commission, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and consisting Justice (retd) Ikramullah Khan, heard his application, filed under Section 40, read with Section 39 of the Elections Act, 2017, on the eve of Eidul Fitr and issued the related order the same day.

Petitioner Behram Mengal had filed his nomination papers from PB-20, Khuzdar-III, but the returning officer concerned had rejected the documents on the plea that he was not a registered voter from the Balochistan province.

He knocked at the doors of the election tribunal, which also dismissed his application on the same grounds. On behalf of the petitioner, Khalid Mehmood Advocate appeared before the bench, along with Arslan Sabir Bukhari Advocate.

From the ECP side, Muhammad Arshad, director general-Law, Shahid Iqbal, ADG-E/Rolls, and Imran Ahmed Khan, director MIS, were present before the forum.

The election programme for the by-elections to various NA and provincial assemblies constituencies was issued on March 13 while Behram Mengal filed nomination papers from the constituency for the by-election. After rejection of his papers by the returning officer and the appellate tribunal Balochistan, he submitted an application in the ECP, seeking transfer of his vote from Karachi to Khuzdar.

The application was processed and placed before the commission, which advised him to submit Form-21 (transfer of vote) to the District Election Commissioner/ Registration Officer Khuzdar District for transfer of the vote from District Karachi to District Khuzdar after the by-election of PB-20, Khuzdar-III.

The commission order was communicated to the petitioner on April 5, 2024. On the same date, a writ petition was fixed before the Balochistan High Court, Quetta. An assistant director-Law appeared before the court. However, he was not aware of the disposal of his petition and he did not object to the proposal of the counsel for the petitioner that he would not press his petition subject to issuance of the direction from the court to dispose of the application by the commission. The court order was placed before the commission, which issued a notice to the petitioner for hearing for April 9, 2024.

The three-page order of the ECP says, “Arguments of the learned counsel for the petitioner and departmental representatives heard and record perused. Learned counsel for the petitioner contended that the petitioner is permanent resident of district Khuzdar and his vote was registered on his permanent address, but the same was transferred without his knowledge to Karachi on his temporary address. He argued that the petitioner is entitled to contest election as it is his fundamental right under Article 62 read with Article 113 of the Constitution, 1973”.

The order says, “The counsel said the Constitution does not prohibit a voter to contest election from any constituency in the country… He referred to Section 40 of the Elections Act, 2017 and argued that the commission has ample powers to modify the electoral rolls. The departmental representatives informed the commission that the election programme was issued on March 13, 2024 and the election symbols have already been allocated on March 30, 2024. They further apprised the commission that the pictorial electoral rolls of the constituency and ballot papers have been printed and the request of the petitioner is not entertainable in view of the bar contained in Section 39 of the Elections Act, 2017”.

They said the voter history from the record shows that his vote was transferred to Karachi on his temporary address in 2019. The commission was further informed that the petitioner may approach the District Registration Officer for transfer of his vote after the by-election if he so desires.

The order notes that the commission had given vast publicity through electronic and print media for registration/ transfer of votes... "In view of the above, the request of the petitioner for transfer of votes at this stage is not possible as the process for bye-election comprising different important stages is already completed. The application is devoid of force and is rejected."