Thursday December 08, 2022

Daska by-election: District admin, police were part of rigging plan: inquiry report

By Our Correspondent
November 10, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The fact-finding inquiry report on the alleged role of the administration in Daska bye-lection, held in February, found that the senior officers of the district administration and the Police Department were already aware of what happened on the election day and they did not stop anything as per their planning.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has formally released the two inquiry reports. The first one was about the role of presiding officers, etc., already reported a few days back, while the second pertained mainly to the Sialkot district administration. Both reports are available on the ECP website.

The inquiry report carries signatures of the committee members, convenor, joint provincial election commissioner, Saeed Gul, Majid Sharif Dogar, regional election commissioner and special secretary of Punjab Finance Department Mujahid Sherdil. The fact-finding inquiry was launched, as the Daska bye-poll was marred by rigging, violence and disappearance of some 20 presiding officers, forcing the ECP to withhold the results and order re-poll in NA-75 constituency.

The inquiry report finds that election officials and government functionaries acted as “puppets in the hands of their unlawful masters”. According to the report, the Sialkot deputy commissioner (DC) had admitted that normally the sitting governments used to exert pressure in bye-elections and “they also approached him as well”.

It says that the ‘circumstantial evidence and statements of the AEOs/POs reveal that the assistant commissioner (AC) Daska, who was also the assistant returning officer, was already aware of forthcoming events, which devastated the law and order situation on the poll day. And he, in the light of that gave certain very specific directions to the AEOs/Pos, which being part of the record perplexed their minds and also frightened them.

The report notes that the presence of the DC Sialkot at suspicious location was a big question mark on his neutrality, though he categorically denied it. However, he could not prove his absence from that suspicious place as the CDR of his mobile obtained from the PTA revealed that his official mobile was used in that vicinity for hours during the night between Feb 19 and 20.

Likewise, the report says that the DPO, while recording his statement, had shown ignorance about all the insurrectionary activities that had taken place on the polling day as well as over the night after the closing of polling, but the CDR of his mobile number revealed that he was in constant touch with all relevant police officers from 12:01am to 10:16pm Feb 19. The report says the DPO as head of the district police is responsible for the wrongdoings of his subordinates as he was the authority to approve each and every act pertaining to the security of the district.

It points out that by issuing unlawful directives to the polling personnel, the AC of Daska, in fact, was harassing the AEOs/POs, convincing them to act in the manner as per his directions and pressurising them to follow the instructions of Farkhanda Yasmeen, deputy district education officer and Hamid, PA to CEO (Education) as and when communicated to them: passing of aforesaid illegal directions by the AC were not less than a criminal act on his part. The report says that asking for stopping polling in case of any firing incident was a clear violation of the code of conduct and conspiracy of arranging firing incidents and a criminal act.

The district police officer (DPO), it says, deliberately submitted the security plan to the RO office too late in order to avoid any objection, query and pin-pointing of loopholes, etc., and that the DPO being the commander of the district police and the SP (Investigation), Sialkot, remained at their homes on the polling day and showed their least concern about law and order situation at the crucial time of by-election.

The report says so it could be apprehended that they both already knew that what will happen on the poll day in the city regarding worsening of law and order that is why they deliberately let the situation turn untoward as per plan and did not take any substantial initiative to maintain it.

The report declares that the district police were also aware of the incidents which had to happen on the polling day and they either wilfully or half-heartedly became part and parcel in its execution because no concrete steps were taken by the district police to stop such untoward incidents which is pointed out by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) in its report.

Moreover, the report says that unauthorised police officers and personnel either from district police or Special Branch were found involved in violating the SOPs of the code of conduct and security plan by entering the premises of the polling stations, talking with the polling personnel in person or through mobile, manhandling them, carrying them in private cars to some suspicious place, keeping them at that place for hours instead of taking them straight to the RO’s office, etc.

The report notes the lethargic behaviour showed by the high-ups of district police have strengthened the apprehensions that the department was already in knowledge of what was going on and they allowed to let the things happen as per planning. It not only devastated the law and order situation but also catalysed the spreading of fear in the constituency, which discouraged the people from exercising their right to vote and then eventually the goal of keeping the turnout at the minimum level in the city area of Daska was achieved.

The DPO also showed his ignorance regarding the illegal activities that took place at the suspicious location near Zohra Hospital. The report questions how is it possible that a DPO was unaware of such a huge unlawful event going on at the chasing distance from his office. He was also deliberately shifting the responsibilities on the shoulders of his subordinates for their wrongdoings.

“The statements submitted by the AEOs/POs revealed that he was involved in subversive activities, tried his level best to jeopardise the election process and alter the results in favour of the government which was a criminal act on his part. Though, he denied any such move, but his location at Adda Begowala on the same date and time is negating his defence plea,” says the report.

The CDR of his mobile number obtained from PTA shows that he was not only in touch with some leading politicians but also with all suspicious characters. Moreover, his residence became a pivot of unlawful activities where meetings of government functionaries were held regularly. On one such occasion Naeem Ghous, special secretary, Higher Education Department, Punjab, was summoned and asked to manage the POs from Higher Education Department, Sialkot, and Deputy Director (Colleges).

The report says that the AC House, Daska, was also turned into a hub of plenary sessions of Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, then adviser to the Punjab chief minister, where she presided over different meetings. Needless to mention here that she was not allowed to be present there being an adviser to the CM, as the area fell within the territorial limits of the constituency: Meaning thereby that the AC Daska was facilitating the government to violate ECP’s code of conduct.

The report at the end says, “The disbursement of money among the stakeholders for achieving the ulterior motives at different stages cannot be over-ruled altogether as reflected in the statements of the AEOs/Pos, etc”.