LAHORE: The Supreme Court set aside on Thursday an election tribunal’s May 5, 2015 order that called for re-election in NA-125 (now NA-131) and allowed a petition filed by former railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq in this regard.
A two-judge bench, comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, announced the short order at the apex court’s Lahore Registry it had reserved on March 19 this year.
Rafiq’s political rival, PTI candidate Hamid Khan, had challenged his victory right after the 2013 general election, accusing Khawaja Saad Rafiq and others of rigging the poll result.
Hamid insisted that he had won the election but Rafiq had somehow managed to reverse the result.
Back in 2015, the election tribunal had declared the result of the election null and void and directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold a fresh poll in the constituency within 60 days.
However, Rafiq challenged this decision before the Supreme Court and got it suspended.
According to the new delimitation, the constituency NA-125 is now NA-131 from where PTI chairman Imran Khan is contesting the polls against Khawaja Saad Rafiq.
Rafique had won the seat in the 2013 general election by bagging 123,416 votes against 84,495 votes of PTI’s Hamid Khan.
The latter, however, challenged Rafique’s victory, alleging that the result was ‘massively rigged’ in favour of Rafique.
In its verdict, the election tribunal had observed that the returning officer for NA-125, Khalid Bhatti, had compiled results on the basis of ‘a large number of’ unverified forms (XIV).
The tribunal accused polling staff of negligence, saying that irregularities emerged at the polling stations.
According to the tribunal, the election staff did not follow the law, committing illegalities.
However, the verdict maintained that rigging, planned or otherwise, or any sort of connivance between any candidate and election staff had not been proven.
The ruling ordered relevant officials to launch an inquiry and initiate appropriate legal action against returning officers and other election staff concerned. It also stated that the election staff posted in the constituency should return the honorarium they were paid as punishment.