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ISLAMABAD: The Elec­tion Commission of Pakis­tan (ECP) on Wednesday rejec­ted identical petitions seeking cancellation of registration of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

The petitions filed by Khurram Nawaz Gandapur, Niaz Inqilabi, Abrar Hussain, Raza Raees and Abdul Waheed had argued that a party with the name of a person who had been convicted by the Supreme Court and was ineligible to hold any party office or be elected as a lawmaker could not be registered. The petitioners asked the ECP to either cancel registration of the party or remove the word “Nawaz” from its name.

A two-member ECP bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner retired Jus­tice Sardar Muhammad Raza had reserved its judgement on the petitions after hearing arguments from both sides on Monday.

Again seeks formation of commission to investigate RTS fiasco

Besides, with an elected government in place, the ECP has once again asked the cabinet division to form an inquiry commission to probe the Results Transmis­sion System (RTS) fiasco.

The previous orders given by the ECP in the first week of August for an inquiry into the RTS failure during the recently held general elections could not be followed as the then caretaker government apparently avoided a decision on the controversial issue.

Using the old bureaucratic tactic meant to delay things, the cabinet division had sent the letter written to it to the Ministry of Law which observed that the RTS was only a tiny aspect of the Results Management System (RMS) and without authority to look into actions preceding and succeeding result transmission, it might not be possible for any inquiry commission to give concrete and comprehensive findings on the proposed terms of reference (ToR).

“If counting, tabulation and compilation were delayed or the presiding officers and returning officers could not perform any duty on time, the proposed commission of inquiry may not be able to connect the dots under ToR proposed by ECP,” the law ministry noted in its response.

The ministry was of the opinion that it was the federal government and not the cabinet division which could constitute an inquiry commission under the Commis­sion of Inquiry Act 2017. “Hence, once the revised ToRs are received from the Election Commission of Pakistan, the matter should be placed before the cabinet,” it said.

A senior ECP official told Dawn on Wednesday that in the fresh letter, the cabinet division had been told that the directives had been issued to it under Articles 218 (3) and 220 of the Constitution. According to him, under Article 218 (3), the ECP can take all steps required to ensure conduct of polls in a free and fair manner, while Article 220 binds all executive authorities to assist the ECP in discharge of its functions.

The official disagreed with the objection that the terms of reference were vague and said these would analyse the concept of RTS in terms of its practicability, the project as envisaged by the ECP, its preparation and finalisation by the National Database and Registration Authority, quality and extent of training imparted to various users, trail of events that took place on the night of July 25 and thereafter, fixing of responsibility and recommendations for future course of action.

He said the ToR covered all aspects following election day activities and would remain the same, adding that the cabinet division had been directed to constitute an inquiry commission consisting of technical experts from the National Telecommunication and Information Technology Security Board and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to probe the RTS episode during the conduct of polls on July 25 and afterwards.

The ECP requires the inquiry to be completed within four weeks and, if needed, other expert opinion may also be utilised after permission by the commission.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2018