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ECP rejects PTI claim of manipulation of 2013 polls

ECP rejects PTI claim of manipulation of 2013 polls

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan rejected on Wednesday Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s claim that the 2013 general elections were systematically manipulated or influenced by design.

In a report submitted to the Judicial Commission investigating alleged rigging in the last elections, the ECP argued that on an overall basis the election results of both the national and provincial assemblies were “a true and fair reflection” of the mandate given by the electorate.

Read: Judicial commission: PTI pins hopes on ECP

The ECP, however, said that there might have been irregularities and malpractices in individual constituencies and petitions and appeals on these had already been pending either before the election tribunals or the Supreme Court.

At the last hearing on April 16, the three-judge Judicial Commission, headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, had ordered the ECP to submit within seven days a rejoinder to the proposals filed by the PTI, PPP and other parties.

Also read: Imran accuses ECP of ‘covering up’ rigging

The commission will resume hearing on Thursday.

The ECP rejected the allegations that numerous unauthorised and unlawful changes were made in the final polling scheme for constituencies in violation of the Representation of People’s Act 1976 and said a list of polling stations had been published in accordance with the provisions of the act well in time.

About the failure to use the results management system (RMS), a specialised software-based framework for compiling election results, the ECP explained that RMS software with computers had provided to 425 returning officers (ROs) across the country, but some of them failed to use it because of loadshedding and slow internet connectivity as well as poor training of district election officers at some locations. And, therefore, the consolidation of results was delayed at some places because Form XIV had to be scanned and fed into the RMS.

Also read: ECP rejects rigging allegations

But, the ECP insisted, the less use of RMS had not resulted in adverse consequences for Form XIV which had to be manually prepared and signed by polling officers.

Under the law, ROs were obliged to announce the results as per conventional method of compilation of results by using Forms XVI and XVII and not through the RMS. This meant that there was no legal obligation on the ROs to replace the conventional method of calculation with the newly developed RMS, the ECP report explained.

The RMS was developed with the assistance of UNDP as a standalone system to be provided to the office of each RO and it was anticipated that being a new initiative breakdowns and malfunctions could occur. Consequently, the ECP had already planned alternatives.

About unauthorised printing of additional ballot papers and delivery, the ECP said the process of procurement of papers for printing of ballot papers was an exclusive responsibility of the Printing Corporation of Pakistan and the Pakistan Security Printing Corporation under PPRA rules.

All printing presses printed ballot papers constituency-wise as per their allocated shares. The ROs, along with the nominee of the deputy commissioner or DCO concerned, directly received the packed and duly sealed ballot papers from the printing press concerned against proper receipt/invoice and transported them to their offices under police and army escort.

All extra and unused ballot papers were duly accounted for and were available for verification, the ECP said, adding that the issue of unused ballot papers in several constituencies identified by the submissions made by the PTI before the Judicial Commission had been raised with the election tribunal and the matter was sub judice.

Referring to the allegation that turnout was over 100 per cent in certain polling stations, the ECP rejoinder said the claim had been made on the basis of a Fafen (Free and Fair Election Network) report on 49 polling stations which were rebutted by the commission soon after it appeared in the press. Fafen also accepted its mistake and issued a clarification on May 14, 2013, and never repeated the claim in its final report on the general elections.

About the allegation that the number of rejected votes exceeded the victory margin in 35 constituencies, the ECP said elections in 30 of the 35 constituencies had been called to question through petitions. Twenty-seven of the election petitions have been adjudicated upon by tribunals and the judgments in six cases have been challenged in the Supreme Court. Three election disputes were still pending before the tribunals, the ECP report said.

Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2015

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