ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission appears to be confident that army personnel will join verification of 6.8 million voters in Karachi from the first week of next month to address a complaint that some three million people settled in the city for years have been enrolled at their permanent addresses without their consent.
Election Commission’s Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan told Dawn that the timeframe for the exercise, requiring about 10,000 enumerators, would be finalised at a meeting to be presided over by Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim on Thursday.
He said the Sindh provincial election commissioner would present a plan for verification of voters in 13,000 census blocks in the city.
A military official said no formal request from the commission regarding the re-verification had so far been received.
The confidence of the Election Commission about launching the exercise with the army’s help, however, indicates that the availability of the personnel may have been informally agreed upon at some level.
The Supreme Court had ordered the commission on Dec 5 in its judgment on identical petitions filed by various political parties to re-conduct door-to-door verification of the electoral rolls. “In view of the peculiar security situation in Karachi, such verification must be carried out by the Election Commission with the help and assistance of Pakistan Army and the FC,” Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, a member of the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry that had reserved its ruling on the subject on Nov 28, wrote.
The verdict said it was clear that the rolls of the city were required to be revised by the ECP in exercise of powers conferred upon it under Article 219 of the Constitution read with the Electoral Rolls Act of 1974.
The issue had first been raised by the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) when the door-to-door verification was in progress. It complained that the process had been hijacked by a party that had taken all forms from the enumerators to fill them as it wanted and return them for submission to the ECP. But the allegation was ignored.
Even after the draft electoral rolls were ready, Sindh Awami National Party chief Shahi Syed claimed to have documentary evidence, including a CD containing conversation of an official of the provincial election commission expressing his helplessness before a complainant and advising him to contact “Nine Zero”, the MQM headquarters.
The petitions were filed by Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf chief Imran Khan, Munawar Hassan of the JI, Jehangir Badar of the People’s Party and Irfanullah Khan Marwat of the PML-N. All the petitioners had complained about shifting of a sizeable number of votes of communities living in Karachi to their native towns on Mingora, Mansehra and Attock without their consent despite the fact that they had been earning their livelihood in the city for 10 to 15 years.
Sources said that besides the re-verification of voters, the Election Commission’s meeting would also discuss in detail fresh delimitation of constituencies in Karachi in line with the court’s orders.
They said revelation of deliberate tampering with the voters’ lists might invite trouble for Provincial Election Commissioner Sono Khan, who has managed to get a third extension after his retirement.
Another item on the agenda would be the fate of violators of the code of conduct in the recent by-polls held in various constituencies in Punjab. The commission will watch footage obtained from different private TV channels, showing supporters of some candidates resorting to firing in jubilation over their unofficial victory.
The commission had instantly taken notice of the violation of the code and was supposed to meet in Karachi on Dec 7, but the meeting was put off.
The sources said the candidates found responsible for inciting their supporters to resort to firing into the air could face action that might entail their disqualification.
An FIR has been registered in Sialkot in this regard and three of the accused have been arrested.