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ISLAMABAD: A day after the government itself triggered a fresh debate on the alleged failure of the Result Transmission System (RTS) during the July 25 general elections, the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) called for carrying out a forensic audit of all Forms 45 uploaded by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on its official website.

The party has also reiterated its demand for setting up a parliamentary committee to hold investigations into the “failure” of the RTS developed by the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) for direct transmission of results from polling stations and thus eliminating the role of returning officers from result consolidation and minimising the chances of manipulation.

“A new situation has been created by the government accusing Nadra of ‘twisting the system’ and the authority rebutting it and calling for a forensic audit. Failure to address it will not solve the problem, it will only invite a crisis”, said PPP secretary general Farhatullah Babar in a statement on Saturday.

Reiterates demand for parliamentary probe into ‘RTS failure’ issue

He raised a number of questions which, according to him, required to be properly answered by the ECP.

“Is it correct that tens of thousands of the uploaded Forms 45 do not bear signatures of presiding officers as required under the law, and [if so] why? Is it correct that 90 per cent of Forms 45 also do not bear signatures of polling agents as required by law, and why?” said Mr Babar.

The former senator said the opposition also wanted to know “if this gross violation of law was intentional and, if so, who manipulated it?”

“Is it correct that the tens of thousands of Forms 45 were not signed because the presiding officers believed that these were forged?” asked Mr Babar whose party was the first to come out with the allegations that political agents of its candidates had been forcibly expelled from polling stations at the time of the counting of votes.

On Friday, federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and PTI Senator Azam Swati told a press conference that the government had decided to launch an inquiry into alleged manipulation in the election results as they believed that top officials of Nadra were involved in “twisting the system”.

The two PTI leaders claimed that there was no rigging in the elections, but “the flow of the results was deliberately delayed by Nadra”.

Within an hour, Nadra came up with its reaction saying the notion presented at the press conference was incorrect and insisting that it’s RTS system had not failed.

Nadra said there was no link between its RTS and the Result Management System of the election commission, adding that the authority was ready for any forensic audit.

Sources in Nadra told Dawn that senior officials of the authority were due to hold a press conference on Saturday, but it was put off when Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the Nadra chairman to reach Lahore to hear grievances of the protesting employees.

Mr Babar said the rejection of the allegation and the demand for a forensic audit by Nadra was a challenge which could be ignored only by those who had “contempt for people”. He said refusal to face the truth would reinforce the perception that the people of Pakistan had been “defrauded, their mandate stolen and transfer of power manipulated to implement some undisclosed agenda.”

The RTS controversy came to surface when the election results were abruptly stopped around midnight and later ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad appeared on TV screens and told the perplexed nation that the RTS had “collapsed” and that the commission was now returning to traditional and manual method of tabulating the results and, therefore, there could be an inordinate delay in the announcement of unofficial results.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2018