ECP rejects foul play charge over NA-133 by-election

Published November 1, 2021
This combination photo shows PTI ticket-holders Jamshed Iqbal Cheema (R) and his wife Musarrat Cheema (the covering candidate). — APP/File
This combination photo shows PTI ticket-holders Jamshed Iqbal Cheema (R) and his wife Musarrat Cheema (the covering candidate). — APP/File

LAHORE: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has rejected the allegations of foul play levelled against it by the nominee of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) for the NA-133 by-poll scheduled to be held on Dec 5. The PTI is seeking a fresh election schedule citing ‘serious’ anomalies in the voters list.

The returning officer (RO) for the by-election has rejected the nomination papers of both PTI ticket-holders Jamshed Iqbal Cheema and his wife Musarrat Cheema (the covering candidate) because votes of the proposers of both nominees were registered in NA-130 though they live in NA-133.

After their candidatures were rejected, the couple at a presser on Saturday alleged that the ECP had shifted votes of their proposers to the other constituency on its own with mala fide intention.

Both PTI candidates stand disqualified as votes of their proposers are not registered in NA-133

Responding to the allegation, the district election commissioner said on Sunday that votes of the proposers — Bilal Hussain and Ghulam Murtaza — were registered in Liaquatabad neighbourhood of the Kot Lakhpat area that was part of the NA-130 since 2018. The two didn’t desire to shift their votes to NA-133 when the voters list was revised in September 2020, the official said in a statement.

He shared with the media the relevant part of the 2018 voters list in which the block code of both the proposers was shown as a part of the NA-130 and the situation did not change in the revised list prepared on Sept 22, 2020. Thus, said the district election commissioner, the allegations levelled against the ECP were baseless.

Punjab Election Commissioner Ghulam Israr Khan, meanwhile, termed the ECP a constitutional institution, saying no compromise would be made on the transparency of the by-poll.

The seat fell vacant on the death of PML-N MNA Pervaiz Malik. The PML-N has fielded his widow, Shaista Malik, while PPP’s Chaudhry Aslam Gill and 17 others are also in the race for the seat.

The disqualification of both the PTI nominee and his covering candidate has virtually given a walkover to the PML-N’s contender. The PTI’s aspirant for the seat in the 2018 general election was defeated by a margin of 12,000 votes while the PPP’s hopeful could bag only 5,500 votes.

Advocate Mubeen Qazi, the counsel for Mr and Mrs Cheema, argued that a candidate might not be disqualified for the ‘error’ or ‘negligence’ on the part of the election authority. Talking to Dawn, he insisted that votes of all family members of both Bilal and Murtaza were registered in the NA-133 constituency while for no reason the votes of the two were included in the list for NA-130.

He expressed apprehension that there might be many more ‘errors’ in the voters list and the ECP should reverify and revise the same through a door-to-door campaign besides giving a fresh election schedule so that no voter was disenfranchised.

Mr Qazi said that superior courts would be moved to get the constitutional right to those whose names had been included in the voter lists of other constituencies if the election tribunal would not give relief to his clients.

Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2021

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