KARACHI: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has initiated an inquiry into the discovery of around a dozen ballot papers found from a garbage dump in the Qayyumabad area of Karachi on Saturday, three days after the general elections were held across the country.
The ballot papers recovered included both the green ones for the National Assembly and white for the Sindh Assembly. They were stamped in favour of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz candidates who were contesting from NA-241, a constituency in District Korangi. A few voter cards were also found in the garbage dump.
The discovery of ballot papers fuelled allegations of rigging being hurled by various political parties.
The respective candidate of the PPP, Moazzam Ali Qureshi, presented as evidence at least seven ballot papers to the district returning officer (DRO) concerned who ordered an inquiry. Quoting the DRO, the PPP candidate said that even if one ballot paper had been presented as evidence, it would have been enough to start an inquiry.
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Qureshi had earlier approached the police to lodge an FIR. However, the police advised him to approach the DRO as investigating the discovery of ballot papers was in the domain of the DRO.
"Ten to 12 stamped ballot papers were recovered late Saturday night from a garbage heap," Qureshi said, adding that the garbage had been set afire in an apparent attempt to destroy ballot papers.
Shortly afterwards, local PPP and MQM-P representative arrived at the site and got hold of the ballot papers.
"Our polling agents were sent outside during polling on the excuse that classrooms could not accommodate all polling agents," Qureshi said, adding that the polling agents also kept waiting for Form 45, which were denied to them by presiding officers and results were handed over to them on unofficial papers.
Demand for re-elections
The MQM-P and PPP candidates for NA-241 have demanded re-elections in the NA constituency and its corresponding provincial constituencies, PS-96, PS-97 and PS-98.
The MQM-P candidates rejected the idea of inquiry by the returning officer (RO). They were of the view that the inquiry should not be conducted by those under whose custody ballot papers were stolen. According to the MQM-P candidates, it was likely that many ballot papers had been incinerated.
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Some staff members on election +day have also spoken to The Express Tribune regarding irregularities during the polls.
One of the assistant presiding officers claimed that the election staff at their polling station found five to six additional ballot papers at the end of each ballot book without serial numbers. "There were no serial numbers on the extra ballot papers and when we complained about it to the returning officer, he directed us not to use such ballot papers, saying that they will handle the matter themselves later."
A female presiding officer explained that security personnel at the polling station repeatedly asked the female staff to leave without finalising the results. A majority of female staff was asked to leave by security personnel after 10pm while counting was still in process, she said.
Additional input from our correspondent
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