LAHORE: Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh of the Lahore High Court (LHC) has directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for a recount of votes in constituency NA-131 on a petition filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz runner up Khawaja Saad Rafique, challenging the order of a Returning Officer who had dismissed his plea of recount of votes of the whole constituency.
Justice Mamoon also directed the ECP to restrain from issuing notice of success of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan from this constituency until the process of recount is completed.
Khawaja’s counsel senior advocate Azam Nazir Tarar contended the court there is a little difference between votes of the winning candidate and the runner up. He implored that an application was submitted before the concerned RO seeking recount but it was dismissed. He contended his client also claimed that 2,800 votes had not been counted.
On the other hand PTI’s counsel Babar Awan implored the RO had ordered to recount the rejected votes without hearing them and that the RO should have ordered recount after properly hearing their version.
However, the court after hearing arguments from both sides reserved decision and then allowed Rafique’s petition with directive to recount of votes in NA-131. The judge also directed ECP to restrain from issuing notice of Khan’s victory.
It is worth mentioning that Rafique’s petition of recount of rejected votes had been accepted by the concerned RO. However, Khan remained the winning candidate and the PML-N leader’s effort could not bear fruit. Later the former railways minister filed another application for recounting votes of the whole constituency but the RO rejected it. After that he moved to the LHC and challenged order of dismissal of his application.
Moreover, Rafique in his application had contended that throughout the polling day and after the close of poll, massive illegalities and substantial irregularities were committed which were agitated by the petitioner and his polling agents but no lawful action was taken.
“Forms 45 were not provided to the polling agents of the petitioner and they were forced out of the counting process”, the petition read.
The PML-N leader also stated he had won the election through a clear margin but in order to convert his lead into defeat the provisional result was withheld, the Presiding Officer of various polling stations went suspiciously missing and no one at the office of RO or from ECP was willing to supply whatever information was being sought by him on the night of polling and the following day.
Rafique further prayed that he had filed an application for recount on July 26 and the notice for recount was issued by the RO on July 27, therefore, it is an admitted position that consolidation proceedings were not undertaken before filing of the application for recount and since the application of the petitioner squarely fell within the statutory guidelines provided by the statue in section 95 of Election Act.
Therefore, it was mandatory for the RO to order recount. By laying down the parameters in the said provision the legislature has structured the discretion, if any, which is to be exercised by RO.
In this case, however, the application for recount was dismissed by the RO on the premise which had no bearing for merits of the application under section 95 thus the order to dismiss his application must be nullified.