ECP releases another damning report on Daska by-poll

Published November 9, 2021
Election officials wait outside a distribution centre to collect ballot boxes and voting material in this file photo. — AFP
Election officials wait outside a distribution centre to collect ballot boxes and voting material in this file photo. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday formally released two inquiry reports about mysterious disappearance of 20 presiding officers during the February by-election in Daska, stating that the senior officials of the police and the district administration were “already in knowledge of what was going on and they allowed to let the things happen as per planning.”

However, some details from one of the reports were reported by Dawn last week, that is prior to its formal release.

“The district administration was in loop regarding happening of all undesired and illegal incidents with reference to said by-election at some level,” says the 34-page damning fact-finding inquiry report against the officers, most of them already placed under suspension.

The other inquiry report has found that election officials and government functionaries acted as “puppets in the hands of their unlawful masters”.

Says district administration, police officials were part of rigging plan

The fact-finding inquiry was launched after the Daska by-poll was marred by rigging, violence and disappearance of 20 presiding officers (POs). The ECP subsequently withheld the results and ordered re-election in the NA-75 constituency.

According to the report, the deputy commissioner (DC) of Sialkot had admitted that normally the sitting governments used to exert pressure in by-elections and “they also approached him as well”.

“The presence of the DC, Sialkot, at suspicious location is a big question mark on his neutrality though he categorically denied it but he could not prove his absence from that suspicious place as CDR of his mobile obtained from PTA reveals that his official mobile was used in that vicinity for hours during the night between February 19 and 20,” says the report.

It further says that the “circumstantial evidences and statements of the AEOs/POs reveal that the assistant commissioner (AC), Daska, who was also the assistant returning officer, was already aware of forthcoming events which devastated the law and order situation on the poll day and he in light of that gave certain very specific directions to the AEOs/POs which being the part of record perplexed their minds and also frightened them.”

By issuing unlawful directives to the polling personnel, the report says, the AC of Daska “in fact was harassing the AEOs/POs, convincing them to act in the manner as per his directions and pressurising them to follow the instructions of Farkhanda Yasmeen and Hamid Raza as and when communicated to them.”

“Passing of aforesaid illegal directions by the AC were not less than a criminal act on his part,” the report says in its overall findings.

The district police officer (DPO) deliberately submitted the security plan to the RO office too late in order to avoid any objection, query and pin pointing of loopholes etc,” says the report, adding that “the DPO being the commander of the district police and the SP (Investigation), Sialkot, remained at their homes on the polling day and showed their least concern about law and order situation at the crucial time of by-election.”

“So, it could be apprehended that they both already knew that what will happen on the poll day in the city regarding worsening of law and order that is why they deliberately let the situation turn untoward as per plan and did not take any substantial initiative to maintain it.

“The DPO as head of the district police is responsible for the wrongdoings of his subordinates as he was the authority to approve each and every act pertaining to the security of the district since he was the authority to issue the security plan.”

The report declares that “the district police was also aware of the incidents which had to happen on the poll day and they either willfully or halfheartedly became the part and parcel in its execution because no concrete steps were seen taken by the district police to stop such untoward incidents which is pointed out by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) in its report.”

Moreover, the report says that unauthorised police officers and personnel either from district police or Special Branch were found involved in violating the SOPs of the code of conduct and security plan by entering the premises of the polling stations, talking with the polling personnel in person or through mobile, manhandling them, carrying them in private cars to some suspicious place, keeping them at that place for hours instead of taking them straight to the RO’s office etc.”

The lethargic behaviour showed by the high ups of district police has strengthened the apprehensions that the department was already in knowledge of what was going on and they allowed to let the things happened as per planning which had not only devastated the law and order situation but also catalysed the spreading of fear in the constituency which discouraged the people from exercising their right of vote and then eventually the goal of keeping the turnout at the minimum level in the city area of Daska was achieved.

The DPO also showed his ignorance regarding the illegal activities that took place at the suspicious location near Zohra Hospital. How is it possible that a DPO was unaware of such a huge unlawful event going on at the chasing distance from his office. He was also deliberately shifting the responsibilities on the shoulders of his subordinates for their wrongdoings.

“The statements submitted by the AEOs/POs ..... revealed that he was involved in subversive activities, tried his level best to jeopardise the election process and alter the results in favour of the government which was a criminal act on his part.

“Though, he denied any such move but his location at Adda Begowala on the same date and time is negating his defence plea,” says the report.

The CDR of his mobile number obtained from PTA shows that he was not only in touch with some leading politicians but also with all suspicious characters. Moreover, his residence became a pivot of unlawful activities where meetings of government functionaries were held regularly.

On one such occasion Naeem Ghous, special secretary, Higher Education Department, Punjab, was summoned and asked to manage the POs from Higher Education Department, Sialkot, and Deputy Director (Colleges).

The AC House, Daska, was also turned into a hub of plenary sessions of Dr Firdous Asiq Awan, then adviser to the Punjab chief minister, where she presided over different meetings.

Needless to mention here that she was not allowed to be present there being an adviser to the CM, as the area fell within the territorial limits of the constituency. Meaning thereby that the AC Daska was facilitating the government to violate ECP’s code of conduct.

“The disbursement of money among the stakeholders for achieving the ulterior motives at different stages cannot be over-ruled altogether as reflected in the statements of the AEOs/POs etc,” concludes the report.

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2021

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