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January 13, 2015

Irregularities, not rigging, in NA-122


January 13, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Report of local commission appointed by the election tribunal of NA-122 to examine the election record has neither mentioned any instance of rigging nor has hinted at any ‘systematic rigging’ as is being alleged by PTI chief Imran Khan. The commission has simply reported instances of routine ‘irregularities’, which could be found in much bigger numbers during such inspection of any other constituency, especially in rural or semi-urban constituencies. These irregularities are caused because of laziness and non-seriousness of polling staff and neither such lethargic attitude was properly highlighted in the past nor such incompetent government servants serving as polling staff are ever punished of such laziness which can create doubts at later stage. However, even despite serious instances of such irresponsible attitude, rigging is not possible in the presence of polling agents or without occupying whole polling stations by force, which hasn’t happened at any polling station in the present case.
According to report of local commission, 30,118 counterfoils have been found without signatures and stamp of presiding officer, 1396 counterfoils were missing, 1395 ballot papers without stamp and signature of presiding officer, 1476 extra rejected votes included in count, 59 missing form-XV, 69 missing form-XIV, serial number was not properly mentioned in form-XV in case of 20 polling station, 28 bags were unsealed while there were discrepancies in form-XV of 218 polling stations.
Though it was mandate of the commission to report about condition of ballot papers but it has not termed any single ballot paper fake or wrongly printed as is being alleged by Imran Khan.
Under section 33(2)(d) & (e) Representation of People Act (ROPA) 1976, presiding officers are supposed to stamp and sign ballot papers and counterfoils and also to make some entries on counterfoils along with thumb impression of voter. These sections are reproduced below.

However, in most of the cases, in almost each and every constituency, polling staff miss one or two of the entries, like either presiding officer will not properly stamp in hurry or will not properly sign or will not sign at all. Such findings constitute instances of irregularities and not that of rigging. Polling agents of every party are present inside every polling station and can check and stop any irregular or dubious practice. Polling agent is supposed to check each and everything happening in polling room and can raise objection or can register complaint against any irregularity. Rigging can only be established on the basis of statement of the polling agent and it can be substantiated with the findings of the inspection of record. If polling agents are unable to report any malicious practice during polling process, the election results can’t be declared void simply because some government servants have not done their clerical work properly. This could be considered as the worst humiliation of the mandate of the people who voted in the presence of the polling agents of all political parties. Polling agents in fact are ‘custodians’ and monitors of the polling process and if they don’t complain or could not prove their complaint, no such clerical mistake or routine irregularity cannot make election process questionable.
Section 55(1) of ROPA explains the need of providing state of “facts” and annexing all evidence with election petition because of the same reason. More evidence can be called but this is always done to substantiate already stated facts.
Section 55(1) reads: 55. Contents of petition: (1) every election petition shall contain :(a) A precise statement of the material facts on which the petitioner relies;
(b) Full particulars of any corrupt or illegal practice or other illegal act alleged to have been committed, including as full a statement as possible of the names of the parties alleged to have committed such corrupt or illegal practice or illegal act and the date and place of the commission of such practice or act; and
(c) The relief claimed by the petitioner.
Relevant subsections of sections 33 and 38 are reproduced below:
33. Voting procedure: (1) Where an elector presents himself at the polling station to vote, the Presiding Officer shall issue a ballot paper to the elector after satisfying himself about the identity of the elector [and shall, for that purpose, require the elector to produce his identity card provided for in the National Registration Act, 1973 (LVI of 1973) [or issued under the National Database and Registration Authority Ordinance, 2000 (VIII of 2000)
(2) Before a ballot paper is issued to an elector:
(b) The number and name of the elector as entered in the electoral roll shall be called out,
(c) The entry relating to the elector on the electoral roll shall be struck off to indicate that a ballot paper has been issued to him,
(d) The ballot paper shall be stamped on its back with the official mark and signed by the Presiding Officer; and
(e) The Presiding Officer shall record on the counterfoil of the ballot paper the number of the elector on the electoral roll [the number of National Identity Card of the elector, stamp it with the official mark, sign it and obtain on] it the thumb impression of the elector.
38. Proceedings at the close of poll - (1) The Presiding Officer shall count the votes immediately after the close of the poll in the presence of such of the contesting candidates, election agents and polling agents as may be present.
(2) The Presiding Officer shall give such of the contesting candidates, election agents and polling agents as may be present reasonable facility of observing the count and give them such information with respect thereto as can be given consistent with the orderly conduct of the count and the discharge of his duties in connection therewith.
(4) The Presiding Officer shall-
(c) Count, in such manner as may be prescribed, the votes cast in favour of each contesting candidate excluding from the count the ballot papers which bear-
(i) No official mark and signature of the Presiding Officer;
(ii) Any writing or any mark other than the official mark, the signature of the Presiding Officer and the prescribed mark or to which a piece of paper or any other object of any kind has been attached;
(iii) No prescribed mark to indicate the contesting candidate for whom the elector has voted.
It is however a fact that all clerical formalities are not fulfilled by polling staff and as there are no objections by polling agents of political parties so polling process and counting is completed in presence of all. All parties mostly accept results at polling station level but when results are accumulated some elements start raising voices against the electoral exercise.
It is also important to mention that both sides are trying to sell their slogans to misguide common people, for vested interests and for political point scoring but no one is making demand to punish such government officers who commit such mistakes and show lethargic and non-serious attitude. The commission report calls for a strict action against all such officers. If any decision is to be made, a similar inspection can be conducted in any five to ten constituencies in all four provinces. Such reports in case of KPK constituencies can not only remove all confusions but can also help common people to understand real issues. A NADRA thumb impression verification report of any constituency where PTI candidate has won can eliminate doubts of PTI activists and can easily make them understand the difference between “fake votes” and “unverifiable votes”.

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