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February 23, 2021

NA-75 by-polls: Inquiry report sent to ECP, decision likely today

Top Story

February 23, 2021

ISLAMABAD: A preliminary inquiry report on NA-75 Daska by-polls, suspected tampering of results and disappearance of 20 presiding officers has been completed and sent to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, according to sources.

Provincial Election Commissioner Ghulam Israr Khan Monday visited the offices of District Returning Officer in Daska and inspected the election material. The sources said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is likely to meet here on Tuesday (today) and decide the matter. CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja will preside over the meeting, to be attended by all four ECP members and senior officials of the commission.

According to sources, the CEC has summoned Ali Asjad and Nosheen, both leading candidates, belonging to the PTI and the PML-N, in the federal capital for Tuesday (today) to discuss the matter with them. It was learnt that the District Returning Officer (DRO) would submit a detailed report, prepared by a three-member inquiry committee on the events of the polling day before the forum. The Election Commission is expected to decide in the light of the inquiry committee findings whether or not to announce the un-confirmed and un-official results of NA-75.

Sources said the committee had conducted detailed investigation of 17 out of 20 disappearing presiding officers, while the other three have not appeared before the committee so far. Sources said all 17 presiding officers failed to satisfy the inquiry committee about their disappearance soon after the end of the election process. The committee mentioned in detail the disappearance of the presiding officers in its report, presented to the CEC. The committee also mentioned the suspected tampering of the Form 45, according to the sources.

The ECP sources said the other options to be deliberated upon at Tuesday’s meeting could be issuance of orders for re-polling at 20 polling stations, or going for polling afresh in the entire constituency.

The ECP would also take a decision on the clashes taking place between the PTI and the PML-N workers in the constituency on the polling day. Already on its part, the ECP had directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Punjab to take action against all those responsible and submit a report to it by February 22. However, hitherto no report had been submitted to the commission, which would now take a decision what to do next on that count.

Meanwhile, a video clip of polling station number 346 presiding officer Tasaddaq Hussain went viral. He claimed in the clip that two ‘employees’ came to him after the end of election process and told him that he would have to go with them in their private vehicle, in stead of the ECP official vehicle. He said the ‘employees’ said they had also informed the returning officer, who replied that it was no issue and they would look into the matter.

In a related development, the ECP asked PML-N to submit more evidence in the 2018 Senate polls video scandal case, as the five-member bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner, heard the case. He remarked that the ECP would examine further evidence and take action accordingly.

The petitioner, Murtaza Javed Abbasi of the PML-N, appeared before the ECP along with his counsel and demanded action against the responsible persons after an inquiry.

He claimed the individuals in the video were assembly members and Defence Minister Pervez Khattak and National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser were allegedly involved in the matter, which was horse-trading.

The ECP member Irshad Qaiser inquired about views on those who voted in the Senate chairman’s election, whereas another member Altaf Ibrahim remarked the elections were fair if the father wins, and are rigged if the son is victorious, as no one accepts defeat here. The hearing was adjourned till March 9.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) consulted political parties on the code of conduct for the upcoming Senate elections and various proposals were shared with the forum.

Talking to journalists, former prime minister and vice president of the PML-N, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, asked the ECP to hold live investigation and hearing of the Daska incident so that facts could be known to all and sundry.

He said his party was in possession of Form 45, issued by the presiding officers before they were ‘abducted’, therefore, the commission should announce success of the PML-N candidate.

Former PPP senator Taj Haider told reporters that all political parties gave recommendations for making the Senate polls transparent and pointed out that an impression was being given as if all politicians were corrupt and sell votes.

He said that there was a sentence of three years imprisonment under the law, if the charge of sale and purchase of a vote was proved, adding that polls could be made transparent by strictly implementing Section 168 of the Elections Act, 2017, which deals with bribery.

Awami National Party leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain said it was proposed by his party that ‘parachuters’, who joined political parties just before the elections and manage to purchase tickets, should be banned. He added it was also suggested that along with state institutions, the respect for the parliament should also be part of the code. He said the Election Commission promised to incorporate the proposal in the final draft.

Jamaat-e-Islami’s Naib Ameer and former MNA Mian Muhammad Aslam regretted that political parties do not take into consideration Article 62 while awarding tickets and maintained the lawmakers who sell their loyalty were the major cause of problems facing the country.