The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Saturday accepted PML-N leader Miftah Ismail's application for a recount in the NA-249 Karachi by-election and fixed the hearing for May 4 (Tuesday).
The ECP order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said that the by-election for NA-249 had been held on April 29 and the provisional result was announced the next day by the returning officer (RO).
It noted that Ismail — the PML-N candidate — had submitted an application that same day the provisional results were announced for a recount which was subsequently dismissed by the RO on May 1.
Ismail has now "submitted an application under Section 95(6) of the Elections Act, 2017 before the commission wherein he has requested for a complete recount of the entire constituency," stated the ECP order.
"The petitioner has further pointed out that there is a difference in the total votes recorded in Form-45 and Form-47.
"The petitioner has also submitted an application for the forensic audit of Form-45 with WhatsApp/RTS on April 30," said the order. It further noted that consolidation of the result had not yet been completed.
"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 in accordance with the provisions of Section 95 (5) of the (Elections) Act, the Commission is satisfied that prima facie case exists for intervention, and therefore stay the consolidation process," the order said.
Fawad calls for re-election
Meanwhile, federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has called for a re-election in the constituency.
According to Radio Pakistan, the minister said that the turnout in the by-election had been low and only 21 per cent of registered voters had cast their votes.
Chaudhry added that the winning candidate securing less than 5pc of the total registered votes was not a "true reflection of democratic norm".
Prime Minister Imran Khan, he said, was the only leader who had repeatedly stressed the need to reach a consensus on electoral reforms and invited political parties to discuss the issue. He said that if the opposition was not ready for electoral forms then it shouldn't make a "hue and cry".
Earlier in the day, the premier had reiterated the government's offer and invited the opposition for talks on electoral reforms.
He said that technology and the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) was the only answer to reclaim the credibility of elections and invited the opposition to come and select from the EVM models currently available.
Parties cry foul
PPP's Qadir Khan Mandokhail had won the NA-249 by-election in Karachi by a small margin after securing 16,156 votes, according to the provisional results released on Friday while Ismail had come in second with 15,473 votes.
The PML-N and the PTI had cried foul and subsequently rejected the results.
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz had claimed that the election was stolen by "only a few hundred votes". "The election commission must withhold the results of one of the most disputed and controversial elections. Even if it doesn’t, this victory will be temporary and will come back to the PML-N soon."
Earlier today she had said that if the success was "transparent" then no political party would have a problem with recounting.
"The margin of victory is a few hundred votes and the rejected votes are more than the margin for victory," Maryam had said, adding that recounting on a difference of less than 5pc was the PML-N's legal and constitutional right.
"The Chief Election Commissioner is requested to give this right to the PML-N."
PML-N President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif had also called for recounting in a statement posted to Twitter earlier today.
Meanwhile, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had responded to the accusations in a press conference in Karachi on Friday and said that no one could prove rigging had occurred.
"You can put whatever accusation on the PPP but you can't prove that PPP has done any rigging. If someone is putting [forward] this accusation, then they should prove it."
He had said that whether it was the Karachi by-election or the issue of the leader of the opposition in the Senate, the PML-N should "learn how to honourably accept defeat when they are defeated fairly and squarely in the electoral process".