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PML-N submits 117-page rebuttal to judicial commission

PML-N submits 117-page rebuttal to judicial commission

ISLAMABAD: The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N formally refuted on Saturday charges of systematic rigging in the 2013 general elections and said it was routine for leaders of losing parties to hurl such allegations at the winning party.

In a 117-page rebuttal to the allegations levelled by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) it submitted to the inquiry commission headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, the PML-N argued that such allegations did not in any way invalidate the elections as only election petitions accepted by election tribunals could do so.

Read: Judicial commission directs PML-N, MQM to submit replies by April 25

PML-N Chairman Senator Raja Zafarul Haq accompanied by its Secretary General Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, Adviser to Prime Minister Barrister Zafarullah Khan, the PM’s Special Assistance on Law Ashtar Ausaf, Information Technology Minister Anusha Rehman and Senator Rafiq Rajwana submitted the document to the commission.

Like other parties, PTI also furnished additional evidence to the commission. Ishaq Khakwani, the head of PTI’s task force on poll rigging, told Dawn that his party had submitted additional material that ran into 120,000 pages and mostly dealt with 82 constituencies of the national and provincial assemblies.

“It took us 15 days to compile the record to bring it in conformity with the legal requirements, as stipulated by the commission,” he said.

He rejected the impression that the PTI did not have adequate proof of rigging and said such criticism in the media was unfounded.

He said the party had the evidence all along but meeting the legal requirements took time as its lawyers had to give consent to what should be submitted to the commission.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which was also asked by the commission to respond to the allegations levelled by Jamaat-i-Islami, did not submit any reply. MQM Senator Mian Atiq said his party had received the notice on Saturday.

Senior counsel Shahid Hamid, representing the PML-N, said that in its allegations the PTI had never tried to establish that the PML-N was involved in any manner or at any level in the alleged systematic manipulation of the elections.

“The allegations are against ECP and its officials,” he said, adding that there might have been some irregularities in individual constituencies which had to be dealt with by the election tribunals.

As acknowledged by the PTI, PML-N polled over 14.8 million votes across the country while the PTI was a distant second with 7.6m votes, the PML-N document said. “The sum total of alleged irregularities mentioned in the PTI documents does not reach anywhere near the difference of 7.1m votes.”

While highlighting different irregularities, it argued, the PTI petitions had not even attempted, in most cases, to quantify the effect of the alleged irregularity on the votes cast for or against candidates of different parties.

Referring to the PTI sit-in in Islamabad and media interviews of its leaders last year, the PML-N recalled that it was their constant refrain that the elections had been systematically rigged through a conspiracy hatched by individuals holding high offices in the judiciary, the Election Commission of Pakistan, the caretaker government and the bureaucracy.

“A plan to systematically rig elections is a criminal conspiracy in terms of section 120-A of the Pakistan Penal Code,” it said, adding that the complainant had to specify as to who conspired with whom, where and when, which illegal acts were committed and which illegal means employed.

“Contrary to the dharna rhetoric, the PTI petition is singularly silent about these ingredients of a criminal conspiracy apart from the vague and non-specific averment made by the PTI. But no material has been placed on record before the commission either to prove such conspiracy or even to form the basis of a further investigation,” it said.

Of the 272 ‘direct’ seats of the National Assembly, polling was held in 269 constituencies and the PML-N won 129 of them, including 119 in Punjab, five in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, one each in Sindh and Balochistan and one in Islamabad whereas the PTI won 27 seats, it said. But only 30 of the PTI’s losing candidates chose to file election petitions, including 19 in Punjab. Another 28 PTI candidates challenged elections on provincial constituencies.

The PML-N document said that the figures established that the preponderant majority of the PTI candidates accepted, rightly and in good taste, their electoral defeat.

It said that the PTI lost the elections to the PML-N primarily because of the latter’s public appeal, time-tested leadership, manifesto and better candidates.

The PTI’s election review commission comprising Tasneem Noorani, Ahmed Awais and Yacoob Izhar had identified several internal factors that had contributed to the party’s defeat, like flawed selection of candidates, the PML rejoinder said. The review commission did not level any of the allegations mentioned in the PTI petition.

It said that the inquiry commission was tasked with preparing a report in accordance with the terms of reference set out in the presidential ordinance and the PML-N was not an accused in the proceedings because, among other things, there was no allegation that the PML-N was party to any pre-planned conspiracy for systematic rigging.

Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2015

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