ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Monday sought a recount of votes in PP-7 Rawalpindi-II, challenging the defeat of its candidate with a razor-thin margin, the returning officer (RO) concerned has called all the candidates to his office on Tuesday (today) for a decision on the plea.

According to unofficial results, PML-N’s Raja Sagheer won the by-poll on the Punjab Assembly seat with a margin of just 49 votes defeating Mohammad Shabbir Awan of the PTI. The PTI also raised questions over the delayed announcement of the result in the constituency.

Mr Awan in his application said the winning candidate received 68,906 votes while he secured 68,857 with the difference of just 49 votes.

He argued in his application that the results in other constituencies across Punjab were announced at 7pm while PP-7’s result was shared quite late.

Difference in votes between losing, winning candidates falls under prescribed threshold of 5pc of total votes, says application

The result transmission system is meant to transmit Form 45 - the statement of the count — from polling stations to the RO offices and the ECP secretariat using a smartphone.

In addition, the difference in votes between him and the winning candidate “falls under the prescribed threshold of five per cent of total votes polled and 10,000 votes pursuant to Section 95 (5) of the Elections Act, 2017,” Mr Awan stated.

Section 95(5) of the act reads: “Before commencement of the consolidation proceedings, the returning officer shall recount the ballot papers of one or more polling stations if a request or challenge in writing is made by a contesting candidate or his election agent and 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…..”. Under a proviso in the section, the recount is to be made by the returning officer only once.

The applicant said he had repeatedly made requests to allow him to be a part of the counting process but they were declined.

Subsequently, the RO summoned all candidates to the election camp office in Kahuta at 11:30am on Tuesday for a decision.

An ECP official, when contacted by Dawn, rejected as baseless reports that the RO had either rejected or refused to receive the PTI candidate’s application for a recount.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had set up 266 polling stations, comprising 787 polling booths, for 335,295 registered voters in the constituency.

Six candidates contested the election in PP-7 which includes Kahuta and Kallar Syedan.

The PML-N’s Raja Sagheer had earlier been elected on the PTI ticket in 2018 and was de-seated last month under Article 63-A for voting against party lines.

Hafiz Mansoor of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) got 14,775votes, Raja Tanveer of Jamaat-i-Islami 1,666 and independent candidates Engineer Raja Nazakat Hussain 339 votes and Raja Wasim 3,084 votes.

The turnout in the constituency remained 47.46pc, as 159,143 votes were polled - 75,987 females and 83,156 males. As many as 1,516 votes were rejected.

In some polling stations, the PTI workers alleged that the ruling party candidate “bribed people through cash and flour.” However, the PML-N rejected the allegations.

Former MNA and PTI spokesman Sadaqat Ali Abbasi told reporters that polling remained peaceful but the police and the ECP staff allegedly forced people to cast votes against the former ruling party.

“By afternoon, the PTI supporters had come out in large numbers from Kahuta to cast vote in favour of Imran Khan’s candidate,” he said.

Talking to media earlier in the day, PTI Punjab leader Fayyazul Hassan Chohan said the party had challenged the PP-7 by-poll result and expressed the hope the seat would be secured by his party after the recounting of votes.

In 2018, both PML-N and PTI had lost the seat while Mr Sagheer, an independent candidate at the time, had won by bagging 44,363 votes. He subsequently joined the PTI government but left after Jehangir Khan Tareen parted ways with the former ruling party.

“PML-N bigwig Raja Zafarul Haq’s son Raja Mohammad Ali used to contest the election on the PML-N ticket from Kahuta but this time the party decided to give the ticket to Mr Sagheer in return for his support to Hamza Shehbaz in the election for the chief minister.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2022

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