Karachi was once again in the spotlight in the Supreme Court on Wednesday – but this time, it was pre-poll rigging under scrutiny rather than the law and order situation.
Almost all political parties – including the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – backed a petition demanding that the new electoral rolls in Karachi be revised. The petition stated that a huge number of voters who had moved from other parts of Pakistan to Karachi were now registered in their original hometowns – even though they still reside in Karachi.
The petition squarely pinned the blame on the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and alleged that the party has completely hijacked the city.
A three-judge bench – headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry – observed that the consequences were serious if three million votes had been dislocated to other districts. It directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to examine the electoral rolls, saying that the complaints were credible and that votes cannot be shifted to other districts without the consent of voters.
PPP General Secretary Jehangir Badar, who told the court that the lists needed to be reviewed, also informed the court that he was representing a petition filed by late former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, regarding bogus voters’ lists.
Rana M Shamim, the counsel for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, claimed that MQM workers, rather than the ECP staff, distributed voter registration forms, and that they were also behind shifting votes to areas outside Karachi although the voters live in Karachi. “My own vote has been shifted to Punjab without my consent, while my family members’ votes are registered in Karachi,” he said.
Hamid Khan, the counsel for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Imran Khan, told the court that around three million voters have been dislocated in the new voters’ lists. The situation in Karachi was not good, he said, claiming that the ECP staff could only approach 10% of the city’s population. Hamid added that the votes that had been shifted belonged to people who have been living in Karachi for the last 10 to 15 years and were now registered as voters on their permanent (original) addresses without consent.
The chief justice asked for a short-term solution so that the next general elections could be held on time, and directed the ECP secretary to depute a senior officer of the commission who could explain under what circumstances the votes of three million people have been shifted from Karachi to other districts of the country.
Former law minister Khalid Anwar had also requested, earlier, that the court direct the ECP to rectify Karachi’s new voter lists. Rasheed A Rizwi, the counsel for Jamaat-e-Islami, also sought the court’s intervention.
The court will take up this matter again today to hear the ECP’s stance on the issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2012.
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