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February 26, 2021

Decision on Daska

Editorial

 
February 26, 2021

It is always good to see state agencies act as independent bodies. The Election Commission of Pakistan has declared the by-poll held in NA-75 Daska last week null and void and called a new round of polling to be held through the entire constituency on March 18. Further, the ECP has ordered the Establishment Division to suspend Sialkot’s deputy commissioner and district police officer as well as the Daska assistant commissioner, and has also recommended that the Gujranwala Division commissioner and Gujranwala Range regional police officer be transferred from the division. The ECP’s decision has come in the wake of controversial results from 20 polling stations from where presiding officers had disappeared, and where in some cases 80 to 90 percent of votes had been cast compared to the polling station wise average of barely 30 percent. There were also cases of firing and unrest throughout the day across the constituency. On this basis, it has been decided it would be best to hold a completely new election across Daska and not at just the 20 polling stations from where officials carrying ballots had not returned till early the next morning.

This was also the demand of the PML-N whose candidate Nausheen Saeed Iftikhar had initially appeared to be leading in the contingency, but then had fallen behind when results from the 20 disputed polling stations came in. Her rival Ali Asjad Malhi has contested the verdict and said there is no reason why the entire constituency should require a re-election to be held. Two people had died in Daska as a result of firing, and there were also consistent bouts of aerial fighting in parts of the constituency. The PTI has said it will be challenging the ECP order but has also said that the decision demonstrates that the government is eager to ensure its institutions are autonomous and work without pressure. The result in Daska, the party argues, was free and fair, but the ECP decision to hold a new poll shows that institutions of significance in the national sphere can act without pressure of any kind from the government unlike institutions in the past.

Certainly, this is a welcome development in terms of electoral polls in Pakistan. The ECP had stood strong throughout the process and had commented against the acts of apparent foul-play taking place in Daska. Mariam Nawaz has naturally welcomed the decision and praised the PML-N voters for fighting back and demanding a new election. The only loss of this verdict will be that the candidate from Daska will not be able to cast his or her ballot in the Senate polls which take place on March 3. However, what is unacceptable is a tarnished election and yet further disarray as to the question of rigged elections and the outcome from various constituencies.