ISLAMABAD, May 12: Rejecting the possibility that results of the elections could have been changed at any stage, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said on Sunday it would take the responsibility for each and every ballot paper.
“There is no reason for any doubt or fear because of the delay in publication of official results because a foolproof procedure under the law is being followed,” ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan said at a press conference.
He said that under section 38 of the Representation of the People Act, 1976, a presiding officer was required to count votes immediately after the end of polling in the presence of candidates, election agents and polling agents and provide them information consistent with the orderly conduct of count and discharge of his responsibility in connection with the process.
Under the procedure, he said, valid ballot papers cast in favour of a candidate were put in separate packets and each packet was sealed with a certificate of count both in letters and figures, specifying the name and symbol of the candidates.
The ballot papers excluded from the count are put in separate packets which are kept in the main packet.
The presiding officer also prepares on the prescribed form a ballot paper account showing separately the number of ballot papers entrusted to him, the number of unused ballot papers, the number of ballot papers taken out of the ballot box or boxes and counted and the number of tendered, challenged and spoilt ballot papers.
The presiding officer is required to give a certified copy of the statement of count and ballot paper account to the candidates, their election agents or polling agents.
He seals in separate packets the un-issued, spoilt, tendered and challenged ballot papers, the marked copies of electoral rolls and counterfoils of used ballot papers.
The presiding officer obtains signatures of the candidates or their agents on each statement and packet prepared and records the fact if somebody refuses to sign it. A person required to sign a packet or a statement may, if he so desires, also affix his seal to it.
The presiding officer then sends the packets, statements of count and ballot paper count to the returning officer concerned who gives the candidates or their election agents a notice in writing of the day, time and place fixed for consolidation of the results and counts votes in their presence, including postal ballots.
After consolidation of the results, the returning officer provides a copy of the same to the candidates or their agents and reseals the packets and statements opened by him.
The returning officer then intimates the ECP the results of the count which is to be published in the commission’s official gazette.
Ishtiak Ahmed said the result of a winning candidate would not be published in the gazette if he failed to submit the return of election expenses within 10 days.
The ECP secretary said the election in NA-38 (Lower Dir) suspended because of law and order would be held within 10 days.
He said those elected as independents would have three days to join a political party after publication of the results in the official gazette. The candidates elected from more than one seat would have to retain one and by-elections on vacant seats would be held by the end of July, he added.
Mr Ishtiak said the quota of seats reserved for women and minorities would be worked out on the basis of numerical strength of political parties in the assemblies. He said that under the law, the National Assembly was to meet within 21 days after the elections.