LAHORE: Punjab election commission's tribunal on Saturday ordered re-polling in National Assembly constituency, NA-122, declaring the election in the constituency null and void – accepting Imran Khan's petition challenging the 2013 election result.
National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq had defeated PTI Chairman Imran Khan in the 2013 general elections from NA-122 after which PTI had challenged the results.
The tribunal's decision, which was expected at 10am today, was released after an unexplained delay of several hours.
|Imran Khan gestures alongside party members after a tribunal deseated Ayaz Sadiq as MNA. – courtesy PTI Facebook page|
Imran Khan in a tweet said he was grateful to God and thanked his supporters for standing by him in his "fight for justice against all odds." He said the tribunal decision was a victory for "justice."
Addressing supporters in Lahore later at night, Imran Khan criticised the election commission for failing to conduct elections without massive irregularities. He said the judicial commission probing the general election had also blamed the ECP for lapses and shortcomings.
|Imran Khan addressing supporters in Lahore after a tribunal ordered re-polling in NA-122. – DawnNews screengrab|
“The election commission has still not replied to our letter, sent three weeks ago. If they do not respond within two weeks, we will hold another sit-in outside the chief election commissioner’s office,” said the PTI chief.
He took on the PML-N, saying the ruling party had colluded with returning officers to “fix matches.”
“My mission was to improve the electoral system in Pakistan, which I undertook two-and-a-half years ago,” said Imran Khan.
Khan also severely criticised Nadra and its chief for failing to verify thousands of voter thumbprints, levelling charges of malpractice on the Nadra chairman.
Imran Khan said he was “unhappy” for ex-speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq and his family.
PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi, while talking to DawnNews, termed the decision as historic, adding that it would go a long way in ensuring a transparent election system in Pakistan.
Imran Khan's counsel, Anis Hashmi, while talking to DawnNews, said the “election tribunal had deseated Ayaz Sadiq” as member of the National Assembly, adding that he was “no more the speaker of the house.”
Ayaz Sadiq's son, Ali Sadiq, while talking to media personnel said the tribunal's decision had not mentioned the word "rigging" anywhere.
Ayaz Sadiq's lawyer said Imran Khan had claimed results were manipulated through rigging but this claim could not be proven. He said the tribunal judgment ordered re-polling because the “election machinery was materially affected by irregularities of officials.” But there is no question of rigging, he added.
Meanwhile Ali Sadiq said his father had the right to appeal the decision in the apex court. “We have the right to appeal. We will discuss this internally and make a decision.”
Later, talking to media personnel, Ayaz Sadiq announced he would challenge the decision in the Supreme Court over reservations. The deseated MNA said he respected the tribunal's decision but said he did not agree with the judgment, which had declared the election void due to "failures of the election machinery."
Sadiq emphasised that the tribunal's decision to order re-polling was based on a technicality and not on grounds of rigging.
Responding to a question, Sadiq said "I am no more an MNA, how can I be the assembly's speaker anymore."
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in a statement said the tribunal's decision was part of the legal process and all political parties should respect that. The premier went on to say that his party will use its constitutional right be challenging the decision in the apex court.
A large number of supporters from Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had gathered outside the election commission office before the verdict's release, chanting slogans in support of their leaders and against each other's.
PTI supporters celebrated the tribunal verdict by distributing sweets, exploding fireworks and dancing to music in various parts of the country.
|PTI workers and leaders celebrating the tribunal decision in Lahore. – DawnNews screengrab|
Tribunal member Kazim Ali Malik had on Aug 17 reserved the verdict after Sadiq's counsel concluded his arguments against the petition filed by PTI Chairman Imran Khan, the runner-up candidate from the constituency.
The tribunal had issued special passes to five persons from each side — PTI and PML-N — to hear the decision.
NA-122 was among the four controversial constituencies — the other three being NA-110 (Sialkot), NA-125 (Lahore) and NA-154 (Lodhran) — where PTI had demanded for voters’ thumbprint verification in the hopes of finding a solution that might be acceptable to all concerned.
It is to be mentioned here that proceedings of Imran Khan’s petition remained suspended for a year. The Lahore High Court on Nov 4, 2013, had granted a stay to the NA speaker against the proceedings before the tribunal. The court on Nov 20, 2014, recalled the stay order and allowed the tribunal to proceed with the case.
The PTI chief visited the election tribunal twice; first on Nov 26, 2014, with a request not to combine decisions of NA-122 and PP-147 and the second time on Dec 6, 2014, to record his statement. The NA speaker also recorded his statement before the tribunal on Feb 7, 2015.
Take a look: Only 40pc votes verified in NA-122 polls: Nadra
The tribunal appointed a retired sessions judge as local commission on Dec 8, 2014. On tribunal’s order, Nadra held an inspection of the constituency record and submitted its final report on May 9, 2015. The authority submitted a supplementary report on May 30.
Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, who replaced Dr Fehmida Mirza to become 19th speaker of the National Assembly in 2013, had hit headlines when he defeated PTI Chairman Imran Khan from NA-122 (Lahore) in 2002 general election with a big margin.
He repeated the feat by again beating Imran Khan in the May 2013 general elections from the same constituency when the PTI leader was riding a new wave of popularity and the party was expecting a major share from Lahore’s 13 constituencies.
Born to an Arain family of Kasur in 1954, Ayaz graduated from prestigious Aitchison College, Lahore, and earned his degree in commerce from Hailey College of Punjab University.
Besides Imran Khan, former opposition leader in National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar, KP chief minister Pervaiz Khattak, Baloch leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal and Zulfiqar Magsi were his fellows at Aitchison.