ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has expressed serious concern over reports about going missing of 14 presiding officers in Peshawar and asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold an investigation into the “unusual delay” in the compilation of results of the election held for the office of the city’s mayor.

“The unusual delay from presiding officers of the polling stations demands an explanation that may be taken by the ECP. This unusual delay must be thoroughly investigated,” says a letter written to Chief Election Commis­sioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja on Monday by PPP Senator Taj Haider in his capacity as head of the party’s Central Election Cell.

Through the letter, the PPP also requested the CEC to issue directives for the returning officer (RO) for mayor of Peshawar to “time stamp” the Form 17 results received after 4.30am (Monday) and “maintain a separate log of the remaining polling stations”.

Earlier in the day, PPP’s information secretary Faisal Karim Kundi in a statement questioned the delay in the compilation of the results, stating that the delay in the results in the city like Peshawar had raised serious question marks on the exercise of holding the local government elections in the province.

Concern expressed over reports about missing of presiding officers

Alleging that 14 presiding officers (POs) had not reached the RO office even on the second day, he said it seemed that the results of the elections were being altered through these POs.

According to unofficial results, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) suffered a major setback after its candidate Rizwan Bangash was defeated by Zubair Ali of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) in the contest for the post of Peshawar mayor.

The unofficial results also show that opposition parties have a combined lead over the ruling PTI for the posts of mayor/chairman of the 63 tehsil councils of KP.

The first phase of the local government polls held in KP on Sunday after a gap of six years witnessed widespread violence in various parts of the province, resulting in the death of five people and injuries to a number of others.

The polling process in three tehsils — Swabi, Bannu and Darra Adamkhel — was postponed due to disturbances, including a suicide blast in Bajaur and abduction of polling staff in Bannu.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had criticised the ruling PTI for the violence and mismanagement in the LG elections and accused it of making attempts to rig the elections.

“The PTI has sunk to new depths in its attempts to rig local bodies’ elections. In DI Khan, an ANP candidate was assassinated a day before the polling, members of his family accused the PTI minister of first trying to bribe him then killing him,” tweeted the PPP chairman on his official Twitter handle.

In Peshawar, the PPP chairman said, the PTI people were caught red handed stamping ballot papers the night before the polling.

“All day, there have been reports of the PTI ransacking polling stations [and] attacking polling staff, including women,” said Mr Bhutto-Zardari.

“This is what a desperately unpopular government looks like,” said the PPP chairman, asking the ECP to take action.

Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2021

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