ISLAMABAD: Senior counsel Shahid Hamid tried to dispel a perception before the poll inquiry commission on Thursday that ballot papers were printed in excess to the total number of registered voters only in the constituencies in Punjab from where PML-N candidates had contested the 2013 general elections.
Representing the PML-N, Mr Hamid cited a number of constituencies in Punjab where the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf fielded its candidates and won and where the ballot papers were printed in excess to the total number of voters.
The three-member inquiry commission headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk called more official witnesses — Managing Director of the Printing Corporation of Pakistan Press, Lahore, Mohammad Rafique; Managing Director of the PCPP, Islamabad, Moosa Raza Affandi; and Managing Director of the Postal Foundation Press, Islamabad, Ejaz Ahmed Minhas — for recording their statements on Friday.
The witnesses were called after Mr Hamid, Salman Akram Raja, who was representing the Election Commission of Pakistan, and PTI counsel Abdul Hafeez Pirzada closed the cross-examination of former provincial election commissioner, Punjab, Mehboob Anwar.
Mr Anwar did not recall that the total number of registered voters in Punjab was over 49 million which was covered through 40,000 polling stations.
Reverting to the specific reference made by the PTI about the constituencies where PML-N candidates had won, Mr Hamid confronted Mr Anwar with a number of documents and asked him whether or not the total number of voters registered in NA-122 Lahore, from where National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq had contested elections, was 326,200 but the total number of ballot papers supplied was 326,228. Mr Anwar conceded the point but said he had no idea who had won the election.
Similarly, the total number of voters registered in NA-53 Rawalpindi was 382,115 while the number of ballot papers supplied was 454,000. Ghulam Sarwar of the PTI won in the constituency.
In NA-150 Multan, where PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi won, the number of registered voters was 373,331 whereas the total number of ballot papers supplied was 400,000.
The NA-48 Islamabad constituency, where PTI’s Asad Umar was declared a winner, had 294,193 registered voters against 320,300 ballot papers supplied.
The NA-34 Lower Dir constituency, where Jamaat-i-Islami leader Sahibzada Mohammad Yaqoob won, had 504,091 registered voters while the number of ballot papers provided was 588,600.
The NA-72 Mianwali constituency, where PTI’s Amjad Ali Khan won, had 371,374 voters and 402,100 ballot papers were supplied there.
Mr Anwar admitted that the requirements by district returning officers and returning officers for printing of ballot papers started coming to his office after April 19, 2013.
He conceded that his office had written four letters addressed to different mangers of the printing presses on April 21 and an equal number to the same addressees on April 26. The earlier letters did not mention demands of ballot papers by returning officers but the April 26 letter did refer to specific requirements of ballot papers.
Mr Anwar said he had no idea that initially in NA-154 Lodhran, where Jehangir Tarin of the PTI contested but lost to PML-N’s Mohammad Siddiq Khan, 400,600 ballot papers were printed when the revised requirement under the April 26 letter was 385,000 ballot papers. But by the time the letter was received by the press concerned, it had already printed 400,600 ballot papers.
During the proceedings, the commission repeatedly asked the counsel not to confront the witness with documents issued by the ECP and observed that he should focus on the case without having the media in the mind. “We are recording the evidence and no point has been made so far,” the chief justice observed, adding that the counsel should not make a point, rather ask questions.
Mr Anwar said the delay in printing of ballot papers in some constituencies was because of stay orders granted by courts.
Mr Pirzada also asked Mr Anwar whether or not Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had lost the election to PTI’s Ghulam Sarwar in NA-53 Rawalpindi.
Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2015