National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq on Saturday criticised the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for not granting him an appointment to meet the Chief Election Commissioner.
Talking to media persons in Islamabad, Sadiq, who was accompanied by former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, said he had sought an appointment from CEC retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza and a meeting time was decided. However, the PML-N leader claimed that the CEC left without meeting them.
"I am the speaker of the National Assembly," he said. "He [the ECP chief] should have called me to tell me that a meeting was not possible today. It is a matter of common courtesy."
He also raised questions over the transparency of the recently-held general elections, saying the ECP should have addressed the complaints that are "pouring in from all provinces".
The PML-N and other political parties have alleged that returning officers had not provided Form 45 to their candidates and polling agents. Sadiq repeated the claim, saying he did not receive Form 45 from all polling stations of his constituency.
The NA speaker also questioned the reasons behind a returning officer's rejection of former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's application to recount votes in NA-57.
Abbasi had twice requested recounting of votes in the NA-57 constituency. The returning officer accepted it the first time and the votes were recounted; however, the final result remained the same as before following which Abbasi filed another request for recounting, which was rejected.
The former premier submitted a plea to reopen the ballot boxes in the ECP office on Saturday. But the commission asked the former premier to approach proper forum if he still has any further complaint regarding any alleged irregularity in the counting process.
Commenting on the ECP's alleged unresponsiveness to allegations regarding the transparency of elections, Sadiq said the ECP officials should have been "sitting here right now" in order to address all complaints, instead of leaving.
The NA speaker went on to say that the ECP "has been granted more powers than it deserved" (auqat se ziada ikhtiyarat dai diyay gayay) and demanded the CEC's resignation.
Major parties including the PML-N and PPP have expressed reservations regarding the July 25 polls, with several losing candidates claiming that their polling agents had been pushed out during the vote count and that they were not given Form 45.
Speaker was told to visit during office hours
Soon after Sadiq's press talk, the spokesperson for the ECP dismissed the PML-N leader's claims, saying that the latter had been told to visit during office hours, which end at 5pm. The PML-N leaders, the spokesperson said, had arrived at 5.30pm, by which time the CEC and other officials had left.
Criticising the leaders' move, he further said that it was "unacceptable to pressurise an institution".
He also brushed aside Sadiq's allegations that the elections were not free and fair, saying that the July 25 polls were the "most transparent elections ever held" in the country.
"All international observers and monitors have said that the elections were free and fair," he pointed out.
Another ECP official criticised Sadiq for saying that the ECP had been given "more authority than it deserved". "This is unacceptable," he said.
"The ECP was granted authority by the parliament, not an individual," he said. "The parliament is the representative of the people."
Earlier today, PML-N Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed had met the ECP secretary and had expressed his reservations regarding the general elections. The secretary had assured Syed that his reservations will be addressed and action would be taken if concrete proof was provided.
RO rejects Usman Dar's plea
Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's leader Usman Dar's request to recount votes in NA-73 (Sialkot-II) — where he had lost to PML-N's Khawaja Asif by a thin margin of 1,000 votes — was rejected.
Dar appeared to have an upper hand when ballots were being counted for the first time after polling ended. However, after a recount, it emerged that Asif had bagged more votes.