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August 1, 2018

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Violating his own order…: RO stops recount that raised Faisal Saleh’s votes

LAHORE: Returning Officer Ijaz Ali refused to honour his verdict of continuing vote recount on a petition filed by Faisal Saleh Hayat in NA-114 after the recounting of 10 polling stations cut the original marginal lead of 589 by 84 votes.

Faisal Saleh Hayat, who had contested the elections from NA- 114 (Jhang-1) against Sahibzada Muhammad Mehboob Sultan, had filed a petition for recount before Returning Officer Ijaz Ali.

PPP candidate Faisal Saleh had maintained in the petition that it was mandatory under the law as the difference of votes between winning candidate and the loser is only 589 and secondly that the counting of votes was carried out in darkness and there is likelihood of counting of their votes in favour of winning candidate or other candidates.

Contrary to Imran Khan’s promise in his victory speech that the PTI would not object to any recount anywhere, according to the RO, “the application has been strenuously opposed by respondent (PTI candidate) through his election Agent”.

However, the RO ruled that, “for the satisfaction of the petitioner and to ensure the transparency of the election process, polled votes at few polling stations may be recounted. However, request for recount of all polled votes is refused as not warranted by the law.

To ensure the transparency, it is hereby decided that initially 10 polling stations of petitioner’s choice shall be recounted and if any reasonable difference appears the same shall be extended to 25 more”.

The recount was started and in line with the decision, 10 polling stations votes were recounted. To the relief of the PPP candidate the recounting resulted in the narrow margin of 589 being reduced to 502 votes (84 more for the PPP).

This meant a 15 percent reduction in lead of the winning candidate by recounting of just 10 polling stations in a constituency with 425 polling stations. Faisal asked the RO to proceed according to his decision and commence recounting of 25 more polling stations. However, the RO outrightly refused to stay true to his own written order and called off any further recounting. The PPP candidate protested this U-turn and stressed that the RO should continue the recounting, however, their demands were not addressed.

When contacted, Faisal Saleh Hayat said the lead of his opponent was progressively decreasing and another 50 polling stations would have wiped out the slender lead and given him the lead. He was of the view that the RO showed total lack of integrity and threw out all legal norms in the process. These actions, he said can best be described as the greatest travesty of justice and judicial etiquette. He said any effort to stop this recount to make the PTI candidate win will be rigging of the worst type.

The PPP candidate alleged that RO Ijaz Ali was terrified that PTI candidate’s votes were diminishing with every count and therefore he was in so much hurry that he sent consolidation report to the ECP immediately after refusing to open more polling stations. He requested the CEC to immediately order full recount of NA-114 as the margin now is less than 500.

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