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Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday issued notices to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the returning officer (RO) for NA-131 (Lahore-IX) on PML-N leader Saad Rafique's recount application.

Rafique had pleaded that the RO had rejected his request for a recount despite facts showing that a recount should have been allowed, and asked the LHC to order a recount in the constituency.

LHC Justice Mamoonur Rasheed asked Khan, the ECP and the RO to submit their replies on Rafique's application by tomorrow.

The former railways minister had lost to the PTI chief by a difference of only 680 votes, receiving 83,633 votes against Khan's 84,313, according to Form 47s uploaded to the ECP website.

The 2,835 rejected votes from the constituency have already been recounted on Rafique's request, which resulted in slight changes to the final count but Khan still remained the winner by a few hundred votes.

After losing the recount, Rafique had applied for yet another recount, this time seeking the fresh counting of all votes cast in the constituency.

With the PTI chief having won all five National Assembly seats he contested on, he is yet to announce which seat he will retain.

IHC summons replies in 10 NA, PA constituencies by Aug 3

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday, hearing petitions against the rejection of recounting pleas of various candidates in the July 25 polls, asked the relevant returning officers, district returning officers and winning candidates to provide responses to the complainants.

PPP's Makhdoom Faisal Salah Hayat, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan's (MQM-P) Khawaja Sohail Mansoor, Pakistan Tehkreek-i-Insaf's (PTI) Ali Asghar Khan and PML-N candidates Israr Ahmed and Sardar Iskandar moved the high court after their pleas for recount were turned down.

Israr Ahmed and Sardar Iskandar had contested from PP-111 and PP-109 respectively; Mansoor had contested the polls from NA-239, Hayat from NA-114, and Ali Asghar had contested from NA-15.

Separately, five losing candidates from the PPP in Sindh on one NA and four Sindh Assembly seats also moved the IHC against rejection of their recount requests.

The court rejected the applicants' request to prevent the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from notifying the winners in NA-237 (Karachi Malir-II), PS-36 (Naushehro Feroze-IV), PS-32 (Khairpur-VII), PS-41 (Sanghar-I) and PS-29 (Khairpur-IV), noting that it would try to announce a decision on Aug 3.

All the petitioners had claimed that their requests had been rejected against the rules as the win margins in their constituencies were within the 5 per cent or 10,000 vote limit as prescribed in the Elections Act 2017.

Hearing the petitions today, IHC Justice Amir Farooq directed the concerned parties to submit their responses to the petitions by Friday.

When can a candidate seek a recount?

Recount requests can be entertained at three levels — the PO, RO and the ECP level.

A presiding officer can order a recount at his/her polling station of his own motion or at the request of a candidate, the candidate's election agent or a polling agent. According to Article 90 (6) of the Elections Act 2017 of the constitution, the PO can only order a recount once.

The RO, on the other hand, can order a recount right up till the process of consolidation starts; that is, right after preliminary results are announced.

The RO has to be provided a written request by a candidate or their election agent when the margin of victory is under five per cent of the votes polled or 10,000 votes, whichever is lesser. According to Article 95 (5) of Elections Act 2017, the RO can order a recount on one or more of the polling stations under his watch at the same time, unless he thinks the request is unreasonable.

No rules specifying what constitutes an 'unreasonable' request is specified under election laws.

The ECP, meanwhile, can order a recount before the completion of consolidation process, which means before the postal ballots have been counted and Form 49s have been filled out.

It should be noted that the consolidation process has to be completed within five days of the election. After the consolidation is complete, the RO must provide signed copies of consolidated results (Form 49) to the ECP within 24 hours.