NA-122 ‘rigging’: Imran files another plea for thumb impressions’ verification

Published February 15, 2015
(FILES) In this pho0tograph taken on September 5, 2014 Imran Khan gestures to supporters during an anti-government protest near the prime minister's residence in Islamabad.— AFP
(FILES) In this pho0tograph taken on September 5, 2014 Imran Khan gestures to supporters during an anti-government protest near the prime minister's residence in Islamabad.— AFP

LAHORE: Verdict on the alleged rigging in NA-122 is likely to face a further delay as Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan on Saturday filed another application in the election tribunal for verification of electors’ thumb impressions.

This was the second application by Mr Khan, the runner-up candidate from the constituency won by National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, since a local commission submitted its inspection report.

The tribunal had ordered the inspection of NA-122 record on an application of the PTI chief and appointed a retired sessions judge as commission to do the job. The commission, in its report, pointed out several irregularities in the election process. However, he left the matter of alleged rigging to be decided by the tribunal.

After submission of the audit report and its cross-examination, Mr Khan filed an application seeking action against the commission and re-inspection of record of certain polling stations of the constituency. He accused the commission-member of prejudicing the subjudice matter by giving the media statements on his report. However, the tribunal had turned down the plea for action against the commission for being “unnecessary”.

On Saturday, the tribunal was to hear final arguments from both sides on the merits of the main petition filed by Mr Khan. However, Advocate Anis Ali Hashmi, the counsel for PTI chief, came up with a new application for verification of electors’ thumb impressions through National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra).

He argued that the inspection held by the commission suggested that there were a lot of discrepancies in the record in terms of ballot papers. He said forensic verification of thumb impressions through Nadra was necessary to know the validity and fate of the unauthorised ballot papers used during polling.

The counsel argued that perusal of the record showed that the alleged rigging was pre-planned and not a result of negligence of polling staff.

Opposing the application, speaker’s counsel Barrister Asjad Saeed said the petitioner (Imran Khan) was using delaying tactics by making needles requests. He said the request for the verification of thumb impressions should have been filed along with the application for inspection of the record. He said Mr Khan wanted to delay the decision of the case as the commission’s report discarded the rigging charges. After complete inspection, the verification of thumb impressions would be a futile exercise, he added. The tribunal directed the speakers’ counsel to submit a written reply to the application.

The tribunal-member, Kazim Ali Malik, adjourned hearing till Feb 21. However, he announced that he would no more hold the court in the building of Punjab Election Commissioner owing to security reasons. He revealed that a letter had been sent to the Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan to arrange a relatively safe premises for the purpose.

Meanwhile, workers of PTI and PML-N gathered outside the office of the provincial election commissioner and kept chanting slogans in favour of their respective leaders.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2015

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