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PROVISONAL results relea­sed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on its website indicate that the number of rejected votes was significantly higher in at least 30 National Assembly constituencies, with most of them having the number of rejected ballots greater than the margin of victory.

Of the 54,319,922 votes polled across the country, a total of 1,663,039 votes (3.06 per cent) were rejected in the July 25 general election. The highest number of overall rejected vote count was observed in Balochistan (5.66 per cent of the total votes polled), followed by Sindh (3.87pc) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (3.35pc). The lowest percentage was noted in Punjab (2.67pc) which has the most constituencies with the lowest winning margins.

However, of the 24 national constituencies, each with a count of over 10,000 rejected votes, 12 were from Sindh indicating a larger ratio of invalid votes per seat in the province.

The constituency with the biggest number of rejected votes is NA-86 (Mandi Bahauddin-II) where 15,568 votes were declared invalid. A considerable chunk of 15,340 were also rejected in the NA-197 (Kashmore) constituency.

Sindh sees larger ratio of invalid ballots, provisional results show

Close call in KP

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, at least six NA seats witnessed a close call as the number of rejec­ted votes exceeded the victory margin.

In the NA-13 (Mansehra) constituency, independent candidate Saleh Mohammad won against Sardar Shah Jehan of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) with a lead of 1,474 votes, while the count of rejected votes was 7,600 — five times higher than the margin of victory.

Likewise, in NA-21 (Mardan-II) constituency 5,790 votes were rejected while the margin of victory was 33 votes. The winning candidate of Awami National Party (ANP), Amir Haider Azam Khan, secured 78,911 votes and the runner-up was Mohammad Atif of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) who got 78,878 votes.

In the neighbouring NA-22 (Mardan-III) constituency, the victory margin between PTI’s Mohammad Khan (58,577 votes) and Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal’s (MMA’s) Mohammad Qasim (56,318 votes) was 2,259 while the count of rejected votes was 5,594. Re-tabulation was under way in the constituency.

In the NA-10 (Shangla) constituency, PML-N’s Ibadullah Khan defeated Saeedur Rehman with a margin of 1,405 votes while 4,632 votes were rejected.

Interestingly, a similar situation emerged in the PTI chairman’s constituency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (NA-35 Bannu) where Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi (113,822 votes) held a lead of 7,002 votes over MMA’s Akram Khan (106,820) though 7,356 votes were declared invalid.

In the NA-33 (Hangu) constituency, the margin of victory was only 851 votes but the count of rejected votes was 3,424. PTI’s Khial Zaman remained winner after a vote recount.

A close contest was also observed in the NA-36 (Lakki Marwat) constituency where the winning margin was 9,216 — only 49 votes short of the number of rejected votes (9,167).

Sindh

In Sindh at least four constituencies observed little margin of victory.

Fahmida Mirza of the Grand Democratic Alliance (96,875 votes) held a lead of only 860 votes over PPP’s Haji Rasool Bux Chandio (96,015 votes) in the Badin (NA-230) constituency, where 10,263 votes of the total 218,319 votes polled were rejected. Votes are being recounted in the constituency.

The winning difference was 8,139 votes secured by PPP’s Khalid Ahmed Khan in the NA-204 (Ghotki-I) constituency where the count of rejected votes stood at 10,058.

Another constituency with a close call was NA-237 (Malir-II), where the victory difference between PPP’s Abdul Hakeem Baloch and PTI’s Jamil Ahmed Khan was of 1,382 votes while the rejected vote count was 2,184.

As many as 13,660 votes were rejected in the NA-196 (Jacobabad) constituency where Mohammad Mian Soomro of the PTI secured (92,274 votes) a lead of only 5,398 ballots over PPP’s Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani (86,876 votes).

Other constituencies where the number of rejected votes exceeded margin of victory included NA-199 (Shikarpur), NA-212 (Naushahro Feroze), NA-215 (Sanghar) and NA-221 (Tharparkar),

Punjab

Punjab gave its contenders the toughest contest in most constituencies.

Among the many controversial seats, NA-91 (Sargodha) poll results stirred an uproar when PML-N’s Zulfiqar Ali Bhatti won the seat with 110,525 votes — a lead of 269 votes over PTI’s Chaudhry Amir Sultan Cheema who got 110,246 votes — as 6,733 votes were cancelled.

In the NA-89 (Sargodha) constituency, too, PML-N’s Mohsin Nawaz Ranjha clinched 114,245 votes against PTI’s Osama Ahmad Mela who secured 113,422 votes. The difference was 823 votes while the number of rejected votes was 6,869.

The PML-N dominated Sialkot as per the unofficial results. The city’s constituencies have been in the spotlight for controversial numbers. Besides Khawaja Asif’s lead in the NA-73 (Sialkot-II) constituency even after recount, NA-74 (Sialkot-III) also observed a close call as PML-N’s Ali Zahid won the seat with a margin of 3,501 votes. The rejected vote count was 8,928.

In the NA-87 (Hafizabad) constituency, PTI’s Chaudhry Shaukat Ali secured 165,618 votes to beat PML’s Saira Afzal Tarar who clinched 157,453 votes. The difference between the votes was 8,165 while the rejected votes were 9,565.

The situation was very interesting in the NA-94 (Khushab) constituency, where the difference between margin of victory and the number of rejected votes was marginal. PTI’s Malik Ehsan Ullah Tiwana defeated PML-N’s Malik Shakir Basheer Awan with 8,755 votes while the number of rejected votes was 8,757.

In the NA-98 (Bhakkar) constituency, PTI’s Mohammad Afzal Khan emerged victorious beating his closest rival Rasheed Akbar Khan (independent) by 4,628 votes, while the number of rejected votes was 7,705.

In the NA-100 (Chiniot), PML-N’s Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh won the electoral race against PTI’s Zulfikar Ali Shah by only 856 votes, while the count of rejected votes was 7,197.

In the NA-105 (Faisalabad) constituency, PTI’s Raza Nasrullah beat Masood Nazeer (independent) with a margin of 8,651 votes, while 9,135 votes were rejected. In the adjacent constituency of NA-106 (Faisalabad), former law minister Rana Sanaullah clinched 106,319 votes to beat PTI’s Nisar Ahmad who bagged 103,799 votes. The victory margin was 2,520 while the number of rejected votes was 5,375.

In the NA-112 (Toba Tek Singh) constituency, the PML-N candidate won with a margin of 4,272 votes and the number of rejected votes was 5,483.

PTI’s Sahibzada Mohammad Mehboob defeated PPP’s Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat with a difference of 589 votes only in the NA-114 (Jhang-I) constituency, where 12,970 votes were declared invalid. Results were re-tabulated.

In Nankana Sahib, Chaudhry Birjees Tahir defeated Tariq Mehmood Bajwa (independent) with a margin of 2,896 votes while rejected votes numbered 6,456.

In the NA-118 (Nankana Sahib) constituency, PTI’s Ejaz Ahmad Shah defeated Shizra Mansab Ali of PML-N with a margin of 2,405 votes and the number of rejected votes was 9,257.

In the Layyah (NA-188) constituency, PTI’s Niaz Ahmed Jakhar won 6,477 votes more than the PML-N candidate Saqlain Bukhari’s 102,943 votes while 8,076 votes were rejected. A request for vote recount was rejected by the returning officer.

Balochistan

Balochistan witnessed the highest number of overall rejected votes though a majority of its constituencies saw little competition in terms of winning margin.

Among the very few seats with a close call, NA-259 (Dera Bugti-cum-Kohlu-cum-Bharkhan-cum-Sibi-cum-Lehri) was won by Jamhoori Watan Party’s Nawabzada Shahzain Bugti with a margin of 1,574 votes while 11,508 votes were rejected in the constituency.

Similarly, 10,433 ballots were rejected in the NA-272 (Lasbela-cum-Gwadar) constituency where the victory margin was 5,529 votes.

In the NA-260 (Nasirabad-cum-Kachhi-cum-Jhal Magsi) constituency, Balochistan Awami Party’s Khalid Hussain Magsi secured 53,330 votes while PTI’s Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind got 40,188 votes. The victory difference was 13,142 and the rejected vote count was 13,597.

Conditions for recount

Under the Elections Act, 2017, there are stronger requirements for recounts. The returning officer shall recount the ballot papers of one or more polling stations if a request or challenge in writing is made by a contesting candidate or his election agent and the margin of victory is less than five per cent of the total votes polled in the constituency or 10,000 votes, whichever is less. The recount can be made only once.

If there is a difference between the Results of the Count (Form 47) received from the presiding officers and the results of the recount, the RO shall record the difference and details.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2018