KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Monday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan and the Election Tribunal in Karachi to furnish their replies in two petitions filed by Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and a Pakistan Peoples Party MNA against the verification of thumb impression of voters on ballots in their respective constituencies.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Muneeb Akhtar also issued notices to the National Database and Registration Authority and Syed Ghous Ali Shah, a leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), who had moved the election tribunal against the victory of the chief minister and PPP MNA Nawab Ali Wasan in the May 11 general elections.

The ET, headed by a former judge of the high court, Zafar Ahmed Khan Sherwani, on Dec 6 had ordered Nadra to carry out verification of thumb impressions of voters on entire ballots in the PS-29 (Khairpur), the provincial assembly seat won by CM Shah, and in NA-215 (Khairpur), the NA seat won by Nawab Wasan. The tribunal also allowed another application of the PML-N leader, also a former chief minister, for verification of thumbprints of all voters on ballots in the NA-215.

Ghous Ali Shah moved the tribunal through separate election petitions challenging the victory of the PPP candidates on the provincial and national assemblies’ seats in his hometown.

The PPP MPA and MNA through their applications before the tribunal had also challenged the maintainability of the elections petitions against their victory, but their pleas were dismissed by the tribunal.

PML-N leader Shah had lost elections on both the seats in his hometown Khairpur to Wasan and Qaim, respectively. Qaim Ali Shah was declared returned candidate after securing 44,362 votes on PS-29 seat while Nawab Wasan had won by bagging 91,809 votes on NA-215.

The PML-N leader later challenged the elections results, alleging that his rival candidates had conducted massive rigging in the polls. He pleaded the tribunal to order the verification of thumb impressions on the ballots.

Advocate Farooq H Naik on behalf of the petitioners submitted before the larger bench that the ET had illegally allowed his rival’s plea for voters’ verification by ignoring the legal provisions.

He stated that the tribunal had also dismissed his application against the maintainability of the election petition.

The counsel prayed on behalf of the petitioners to declare that the tribunal’s order was without legal authority, thus the same may be set aside.

The hearing was adjourned to Dec 20.

The election petitions against the CM and the PPP MNA were initially filed in the Election Tribunal, Sukkur, headed by a former district and sessions judge, Zaheerudin Leghari. The two PPP men moved the SHC through constitutional petitions against the tribunal expressing no-confidence in the head of the tribunal. They said Mr Leghari was ‘biased’ for being a ‘mureed’ (disciple) of Pir Pagara, the chief of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, an ally of the PML-N.

The SHC had also restrained the Sukkur election tribunal from proceeding with the election petitions against the PPP legislators and later the Election Commission of Pakistan shifted the petitions to the Karachi election tribunal.

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