Saturday October 23, 2021

Vote recount ordered in Karachi by-poll

May 05, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday ordered a vote recount in the NA-249 constituency of Karachi as it accepted the request of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which lost the by-election by a wafer-thin margin of fewer than 700 votes.

The ECP, in a statement, directed the relevant political parties to be present before the Returning Officer at 9.00am on May 6 (tomorrow), where the recounting would be held. The recount would encompass all the polling stations in the constituency.

Ismail had lost to Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Qadir Khan Mandokhel by 683 votes in the April 29 by-election, after which the PML-N leader wrote to the chief election commissioner requesting a recount. Election rules allow for a recount when the margin of victory is within five per cent.

A four-member panel headed by CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja heard Ismail’s request for a recount, in which Latif Khosa from the PPP and Salman Akram Raja from the PML-N presented their arguments, Geo News reported.

During the hearing, PML-N lawyer presented Form 45 to the commission and said that under the law, a signed form must be given to every polling agent. He said at 167 polling stations, Form 45 were not signed by any polling agent and the party had not received a single Form 46. “Something happened with the Form 45 and Form 46 after polling ended,” he said.

The PML-N’s counsel said the matter of Form 45 and 46 shows “interference” and demanded a recount in the whole constituency. “This matter should be fully investigated as the whole process has become suspicious,” he said.

PPP lawyer Latif Khosa argued that no complaint was lodged with the RO or the election commission during or after polling and the RO was not bound to accept the recount request. They did not provide evidence and just said that there are doubts, he said, adding the application was “absolutely unjustified”.

Later, after the arguments of both parties were concluded, the electoral body reserved its decision. It announced its ruling later in the afternoon.

“Happy to learn that PML-N’s demand for a vote recount in NA-249 has been accepted. The narrow difference in votes of the top contestants necessitated this in the interest of transparency. Credibility of vote is a sure foundation of democracy,” Shahbaz Sharif said in a tweet.

PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz tweeted that the party hoped to win in the recount, “but even if we don’t, we will not relent and try all we can till we get our stolen votes and seat back”. She added: “Will fight tooth and nail for the right of people of NA 249.” She also said the number of rejected votes was bigger than the lead in NA-249, “therefore ECP must re-examine each and every rejected vote thoroughly”.

Reacting to the development, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said: “The PPP welcomes new precedent set by allowing constituency wide recount without specific ps (polling station) complaints. Many seats from 2018 fall within 5 per cent threshold and candidates have not been given this chance. Once ECP order is out PPP will consider going to ECP for recounts in all such seats.”

Maryam then reacted to Bilawal’s tweet, and said: “Asking ECP for a recount on 2018 seats will be a windfall for PML-N because PML-N will be the beneficiary now as it was the prime victim of Dhandli then. Will enable PML-N to win all it seats it lost to Dhandli by a margin of few hundred votes. Thank you PPP for the kind suggestion.”