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SC suspends election tribunal verdict on NA-125, PP-155

SC suspends election tribunal verdict on NA-125, PP-155

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday suspended the decision of an election tribunal which ordered re-election in Lahore's NA-125 and PP-155 constituencies.

Last week, the tribunal had found irregularities in NA-125 and PP-155 after which the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had denotified the Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique. The tribunal had annulled results of the NA-125 election and ordered a re-poll on the seat won by Rafique as well as PP-155.

Read: ECP denotifies Saad Rafique

However, today a three-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali suspended the tribunal's order when hearing a response to a petition submitted by Khawaja Saad Rafique who was declared victorious during the 2013 general elections from NA-125 constituency.

In his plea, the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) leader contended that the election tribunal's decision did not explicitly state that he was involved in rigging.

In its short order, the tribunal had said grave irregularities were found in the record of seven polling stations of NA-125 inspected by the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra).

Take a look: I'm being punished for Returning Officers' failure: Saad Rafique

The application further said that the tribunal's decision had said that there were only seven polling stations that showed discrepancies which were not linked to him.

The apex court subsequently suspended the tribunal's decision for re-election in NA-125 and PP-155 constituencies and accepted Rafique's petition for hearing.

The court summoned all election records from the tribunal and adjourned the hearing for four weeks.

"We will fight the case on merit and we are certain we will get justice," said Rafique while speaking to media representatives after the hearing. "It was highly painful for me to be accused of dishonesty."

"I am hopeful that if we have not done anything wrong, then the truth will become evident," the PML-N leader further said.

Speaking to media personnel outside the Supreme Court, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan said that the apex court's suspension of an election tribunal's decision to order re-election in Lahore's NA-125 and PP-155 constituencies is only a "stay for a month".

Imran alleged that the PML-N government was pretending that the irregularities carried out in NA-125 and the laws broken by presiding officers and returning officers were "just for amusement" and not to benefit Saad Rafique.

Imran also commented on the PML-N's denial of the report by National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) revealing it had not been able to verify the thumb impressions of more than 93,000 votes polled in the constituency of National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq.

Imran said his party has submitted an application requesting the 93,000 votes be issued to them since his party has "paid Rs2.6 million for the verification of the votes".

Imran said his party would scrutinise every vote and match with CNICs associated to them to ascertain if the CNICs were valid.

According to Nadra's report, “there were 93,852 used counterfoils which Nadra could not process through its Automated Finger­print Identification System (AFIS) because of poor quality of fingerprints of the voters affixed on them. However, CNIC numbers mentioned on such counterfoils having poor quality thumb impressions were valid CNICs."

Read: ‘93,000 votes’ thumbprint in NA Speaker’s constituency unverified’

Imran said of the 73,478 votes authenticated by the AFIS, some 15,000 were bogus votes.

Rafique and Mian Naseer Ahmad, both of whom belonged to PML-N, had won the 2013 general elections from Lahore's NA-125 and PP-155 constituencies respectively.

The one-page statement released by the tribunal last week had said that the ballot bags had been opened with a sharp object and the records had been tampered with.

Read: Election tribunal orders re-election in NA-125, PP-155

Rafique had secured 123,416 votes whereas his contender Hamid Khan had obtained 84,495 votes from NA-125 constituency.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's (PTI) Hamid Khan had challenged Rafique's victory, alleging that the PML-N candidate had rigged the elections, and a large number of bogus votes were cast in his favour.

He had requested the tribunal to declare the election null and void and announce re-election in the constituency.

The tribunal’s ruling had come months after PTI’s sit-ins in Islamabad over alleged mass scale rigging in the 2013 elections.

NA-125 is among the four controversial constituencies — the other three being NA-110 (Sialkot), NA-122 (Lahore) and NA-154 (Lodhran) — where PTI had demanded for voters’ thumbprint-verification in the hope of finding a solution that might be acceptable to all concerned.

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