ECP asks PTI to submit response in suspected tampering of Daska by-poll by tomorrow

Published February 23, 2021Updated February 23, 2021 02:09pm
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday directed the PTI to submit its record in the suspected tampering of NA-75 Daska by-election results by tomorrow. — AFP/File
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday directed the PTI to submit its record in the suspected tampering of NA-75 Daska by-election results by tomorrow. — AFP/File

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday directed the PTI to submit its response in the suspected tampering of the NA-75 Daska by-election results by tomorrow.

The hearing, presided over by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, was adjourned till Thursday.

The PTI's legal counsel had asked for more time to submit the record and had asked for a week to submit "verified results and proof". However, the CEC turned down the request, stating that the "weather was no longer bad", in an apparent reference to the claims of the presiding officers regarding fog on the night of the by-election.

He also remarked that the ECP will reach a conclusion regarding the NA-75 by-poll. "If the election was [fair], the results will be released. If it is not, then re-polling can be done," he said.

During today's hearing, the PML-N candidate's lawyer, Salman Akram Raja, stated that an environment of "terror" was created in the constituency on polling day. "Shots were being fired in broad day light," he said.

He contended that 20 presiding officers suddenly vanished and "miraculously" reappeared the next day. "Re-polling should not only be done at those particular polling stations. We need to cast an eye on the election in the whole constituency," he said, adding that this was a pre-planned "operation".

A video of shot fired outside a polling station in Daska was also presented to the ECP. "PTI workers can be seen firing shots in the presence of the party's candidate, Ali Asjad Malhi," the PML-N lawyer said.

The returning office also submitted his report to the ECP. He said that the results from 337 polling stations were added to the RMS by 3:30am. "There was a delay [in the results] for 20 polling stations," he said, adding that 19 presiding officers could not be contacted.

"The presiding officers were accompanied by police officials. Did you try contacting them through the wireless?" asked the chief election commissioner. The returning officer replied that he had instructed the Daska DSP to do so but they were still unable to contact the presiding officers.

He added that out of the 20 polling stations, the results of ten were received between 4:30am and 6:30am. "There is no difference in the results of the four of these polling stations; the results of the presiding officer and the polling agents are the same," he said.

He added that some of the presiding officers said that they were unreachable due to car troubles or fog.

The CEC noted that the RO seemed "distressed" when he contacted the commission on the night of the by-poll. "You had said that the police and the administration were not cooperating," he said.

The RO replied that the administration did cooperate but a large crowd of people, comprising PML-N and PTI supporters, had gathered outside the office.

'ECP to take final decision'

Meanwhile, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said that the ECP will take the final decision regarding the NA-75 by-poll, Radio Pakistan reported.

Speaking to the media in Islamabad, he said the PML-N disturbed law and order in the recent by-elections. He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan has made an important announcement regarding the PML-N's application for re-polling in 23 polling stations. He added that the prime minister has always accepted challenges.

The minister said the government wants to introduce electronic voting in the next general elections, adding that the politics of the PML-N and the PPP is based on lies.

Have always struggled from free, fair elections: PM Imran

On Monday, Prime Minister Imran Khan had requested the PTI candidate to ask for re-polling at the 20 polling stations.

"Have always struggled for fair and free elections. So even though there is no legal compulsion to do so before ECP announces results, I would request our PTI candidate to ask for re-polling in the 20 polling stations Opposition is crying hoarse over in the Daska NA 75 be-election," he said.

"It is because we want transparency that we are seeking open ballot for Senate elections. We will always seek to strengthen a fair and free election process. Unfortunately others lack this commitment. When we wanted 4 constituencies opened after the 2013 elections, it took us over two years," he added.

The by-election in the NA-75 constituency was marred by violence after two people were killed and three others injured in a firing incident at a polling station in Daska.

In a statement last week, the ECP had said that it suspected results of 20 polling stations had been falsified in the by-election for the NA-75 constituency. The commission had said results of the NA-75 constituency were received with "unnecessary delay", adding that it tried to contact the presiding officers several times but with no success.

While the PML-N had alleged massive rigging, the PTI had claimed to win the election and had lashed out at the opposition party for only accepting results in their favour.

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