ISLAMABAD: An election tribunal headed by a judge of the Islamabad High Court on Monday said the tribunal would issue arrest warrants against the returning officers of three Islamabad constituencies over their non-appearance and proceed ex parte on the poll petitions filed against the final results.

The tribunal led by Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri issued notices to all the respondents, including the returned candidates, ECP officials and the returning officers, on these petitions. When the tribunal resumed hearing on Monday, the respondents were in attendance; however, the ROs were absent.

In three separate orders, the judge gave “last and final opportunity” to the “returning officer (RO), to enable the presence of his counsel, or to appear in person on the next date of hearing”.

In case of non-compliance, “warrants of arrest shall be issued”, the judge warned.

During the proceedings, PTI-backed Ali Bukhari was represented by advocate Syed Ashfaq Naqvi. He argued before the court that under the Elections Act, the presiding officer was obligated to mention the total number of valid votes as well as those excluded from the count in Form-45. These details, however, were not mentioned in the form, he added.

According to the ECP’s additional director general law, the commission had no objection regarding the filing of certified copies of Forms-45, 46, and 47 along with affidavits as well as the results uploaded on the Election Management System (EMS) by the presiding officers.

The court directed all the respondents in the courtroom to file written statements and parawise comments to the petitions along with original Forms-45 and 46, within one week.

It may be recalled that the Election Commission of Pakistan had declared Anjum Aqeel Khan, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry and Raja Khurram Nawaz Khan as returned candidates from NA-46, NA-47 and NA-48, respectively.

The petitioners Amir Mughal, Shoaib Shaheen, and Mohammad Ali Bukhari contested the Feb 8 elections as independent nominees backed by the PTI after the party lost its ‘bat’ symbol over intra-party polls.

Two days after the elections, they challenged the results before the ECP on Feb 10 and the commission issued a status quo order the following day. However, the ECP on Feb 11 issued the notification that declared Mr Khan, Mr Chaudhry, and Mr Raja as winners.

As per Form-47 for NA-47, PML-N’s candidate Tariq Fazal Chaudhry bagged 102,502 votes against PTI’s Shaheen, who took 86,396 votes.

In NA-48, Raja Khurram Shehzad, who was the joint nominee of the PML-N and the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP), contested the elections as an independent candidate. He defeated Mr Bukhari by securing 69,699 votes against Bukhari’s 59,851 votes. He joined the PML-N after the election. PML-N’s Anjum Aqeel Khan won the NA-46 seat with 81,958 votes.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2024

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