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NA-125: Rigging was done in three phases, argues PTI lawyer

NA-125: Rigging was done in three phases, argues PTI lawyer

ISLAMABAD: The counsel for PTI’s Hamid Khan — who contested the 2013 general elections and was defeated by Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique from the NA-125 constituency in Lahore — tried to convince the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the results consolidated by the returning officer did not reflect the actual votes cast on polling day.

Rigging was carried out during all three phases: pre-election, election day and post-election and several Form XIV showed that the consolidation of results was done without any thumb impressions or signatures, argued Advocate Ahmed Awais.

But the three-judge Supreme Court bench, consisting of Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Qazi Faez Isa, asked the counsel whether he would be satisfied if the court ordered that the results of all Form XIV with discrepancies be excluded from the final tally.

Also read: Election tribunal dismisses PTI petition alleging rigging in NA-118

Though he did not reply, Khawaja Haris — representing Mr Rafique — informed the court that even if the 36,758 votes in question were taken away from the final count, his client would still win the election by 2,000 votes.

The Supreme Court was hearing Mr Rafique’s appeal, asking that the May 4 decision of an election tribunal be set aside. Accepting the petition of runner up Hamid Khan, the Faisalabad election tribunal had asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold fresh elections in the constituency within 60 days.

But on May 11, the apex court suspended the tribunal’s decision and summoned the record of the trial. The court also issued notices to the ECP secretary and the NA-125 returning officer.

On Wednesday, Advocate Awais deplored that when the result management system (RMS) — a computerised system that updated election results in real time — was working, his client Hamid Khan led the count by around 20,000 votes. But when the system stalled and electoral personnel switched to manual counting of votes, his opponent was declared victorious.

But Justice Saeed, however, observed that while everybody wanted free and fair elections, the proceedings of the tribunal were not like a Pildat survey where the tribunal was allowed to carry out sampling and then arrive at a percentage of success.

“This is not going to help you, since the real question will remain whether the result of the sampling affects the final result or not,” the judge said.

Advocate Awais, however, clarified that the random sampling was not carried out with the consent of his client.

The chief justice also observed that the aggregate vote from the 10 sampled polling stations showed that there was either mishandling of material post-election, or procedural lapses were committed; but nowhere did it show that the results were manipulated.

Justice Isa also asked the counsel whether PTI’s political agents were present at the time when the results were consolidated.

“Nobody knows when the consolidation was carried out, because we were not called. We were pushed aside when the RMS stopped working,” Advocate Awais regretted.

The apex court will now resume hearing the matter on Thursday when it will likely come out with a final verdict.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2015

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