PESHAWAR: Three former lawmakers of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and contestants of general elections on Friday moved Peshawar High Court against non-provision of relevant election documents to them by Election Commission of Pakistan and the returning officers concerned.

Almost identical petitions were filed by former provincial ministers Kamran Khan Bangash and Taimoor Saleem Khan and ex-deputy speaker of the provincial assembly Mehmood Jan seeking directives of the court for ECP, Peshawar district returning officer and returning officers to forthwith provide them attested copies of Forms 45, 46, 47, 48 and 49 of their respective provincial assembly constituencies.

They have requested the court to declare as illegal the act of the said respondents of not providing them the attested copies of the said forms.

They have sought further directives of the court for the respondents to provide them CCTV footage of the consolidation proceedings by the returning officers of their constituencies.

Allege returning officers manipulated results in their constituencies

The petitioners Kamran Bangash, Taimoor Saleem and Mehmood Jan contested the Feb 8 general elections from PK-82, PK-79 and PK-72 constituencies respectively.

They claimed that as per the Form 45 received by their polling agents from the presiding officers in each of the polling stations, they had won against their rival candidates with a big margin. However, they stated that the returning officers concerned had manipulated the results and issued controversial Form 47 (provisional results) declaring their rivals as returned candidates.

The petitions, filed through senior lawyer Ali Gohar Durrani, include ECP through its secretary, the Peshawar district returning officer and the returning officers concerned as respondents.

The petitioners contended that the provisions of the Elections Act, 2017, were specifically violated as neither the said forms were uploaded on the ECP website as mandated by section 95 (10) nor they were allowed for public inspection of the documents as per section 100 of the Act.

The petitioners stated that following massive pre-poll rigging in various modes and forms, finally the polls were held on Feb 8.

They stated that after the closure of the polling process, which was marred by disruption of cellular phone service, the votes were finally counted and signed Form 45 were issued to the petitioners’ polling agents clearly reflecting the petitioners to have won the elections.

The petitioners claimed that following Form 45, they came for the result compilation for the provisional consolidation before the returning officer, however, entry was not allowed to them or their polling agents from 9pm on Feb 8 till 6am the next morning.

They stated that when entry was allowed to them they were merely told that they had ended up not as returned candidates, as was the requirement of Form 45 results, but instead their votes were reduced and other candidates were declared as returned on the basis of some manipulated Form 45, which despite the clear mandate of the Elections Act, 2027, had not been shared with the petitioners.

The petitioners informed that they had approached the high court for issuing directives to the respondents for consolidation of the results on the basis of Form 45 so issued by the presiding officers and the court had then issued directives in this regard.

However, they stated that ECP had rejected their respective petitions through short order while no detailed reasoning was yet available. They stated that the ECP had directed the petitioners to approach the election tribunals.

They contended that they had written applications to the ROs, DRO and also the district election commissioner (DEC) seeking the attested copies of Form 45, 46, 47, 48 and 49. However, they added, the respondents had been shifting the burden on each other for the purpose.

They contended that finally the DEC had written to the DRO to share the attested copies of the forms so requested with the petitioners by giving reason that the forms were still in the custody of the ROs.

The petitioners claimed that this had left absolute credible stigma on the whole process, as not only the petitioners were disallowed their legal mandate of being declared the returned candidate, but they were also deprived of the attested copies of the said forms leaving the election material with the ROs so that they could further manipulate the election results.

The petitioners have also referred to different judgments of the superior courts in support of their contentions.

They have also referred to Article 19-A of the Constitution guaranteeing the rights of every citizen to access information in all matters of public importance, subject only to reasonable restrictions imposed by the law.

Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2024

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