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PTI information secretary Dr Shireen Mazari. — Photo ONLINE
PTI information secretary Dr Shireen Mazari. — Photo ONLINE

ISLAMABAD, May 21: Reiterating its demand for a recount in 25 National Assembly constituencies, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Tuesday criticised the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for charging a fee for carrying out verification of thumb impressions of voters.

Speaking at a news conference at the party’s Central Secretariat, senior PTI leader Jahangir Tareen and party’s information secretary Dr Shireen Mazari termed the decision of the ECP and National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) to collect the fee from the complainants “unfair and unpleasant”.

Both the PTI leaders held returning officers (ROs) responsible for the alleged rigging and misappropriation in the May 11 general elections.

Mr Tareen, who lost the election to a National Assembly seat (NA-154) of Lodhran, explained to the media personnel how, in his opinion, the election staff manipulated the poll results in several constituencies. He urged the ECP to refurnish results for several constituencies, including NA-154 (Lodhran). According to official results of NA-154, an independent candidate, Muhammad Siddique Khan Baloch, had won the elections with 86,177 votes, followed by 75,955 votes by Jahangir Tareen. The PML-N candidate, Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari, stood third in the race with 45,634 votes.

Mr Tareen said that according to initial results which had been widely published in the national media he was winning the election until the morning of May 12.

However, he alleged the results were later tampered with by the returning officer through “misappropriations and under the table rigging”.

“My application for recount had been kept pending for three days after May 14 while my access to the record had also been denied by the election officials,” he said provided some “documented evidence” to the media.

The PTI leader said out of 220 bags containing ballot papers, the seals of 170 bags were broken while counterfoils of around 26,500 ballot papers were without the signatures and seals of the assistant presiding officers. “Marked electoral rolls from five polling stations were missing while 934 unused ballot papers were also not mentioned in the record,” he said.

The PTI leader was hopeful that he would win the elections despite all evidence of rigging and misappropriations, if a recount was ordered.

Dr Shireen Mazari blasted the ECP for its scheme and subsequently potential cost of thumb impressions’ audit through the Nadra. “Charging Rs10 or Rs15 per vote from the aggrieved candidate who lodges an application for thumb impression audit owing to rigging or misappropriation in the polls is explicitly unfair,” she said.

“It is not only against the principle of fairness in the polls but will make justice very expensive or may be impossible in some cases.”

She asked the ECP to immediately withdraw this decision.