It was an interesting paradox. A candidate disqualified by the Supreme Court polled over 8,000 votes in the May 11 elections. The PML-N candidate for Punjab Assembly seat, PP-61, Saifullah Gill, was disqualified by the apex court for anomalies in the documents he had submitted along with his nomination papers.
At the eleventh hour, PML-N’s local chapter decided to campaign for Saifullah’s younger brother, Naeemullah Gill, for the seat.
According to a party leader, 100,000 pamphlets were printed for Naeemullah’s publicity, and teams of workers distributed them among the voters. “We also informed many people over the telephone about the new development,” he said.
Additionally, workers were deputed at polling stations to inform people verbally about the change of candidates, particularly the aged and illiterate people of this constituency in Faisalabad.
Naeemullah’s election symbol (comb) also confused voters. Another PML-N candidate from the area, who was initially vying for a national seat – NA-80 – but later did not contest, was allotted the same symbol and could not withdraw nomination papers on time, said a party worker.
And yet, despite these last minute changes and misunderstandings, Naeemullah secured 25,832 votes, winning the seat by a margin of 2,800 votes against his rival from PML-Q.
“This victory was surprising for me because we could not even approach all voters of the constituency,” said the newly elected MPA, adding that around 7,000 voters stamped on the comb symbol of the NA-80 candidate.
Similarly, between 8,000 and 9,000 people cast their votes for his disqualified brother unknowingly, he added.
Naeemullah explained how they received the apex court order around 12:30 pm on May 10, after which it took them approximately four hours to decide to contest. “We finally decided at 4pm, immediately formed 16 teams, and they started informing voters about the new scenario,” he said.
Saifullah’s nomination papers were rejected by a returning officer because of a difference between his listed birth date on his matriculation certificate and on his birth certificate. Even after this, an election tribunal (Multan) allowed him to contest conditionally.
However, later, this decision was challenged and a three-judge bench of the top court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, disqualified Saifullah, hours before the elections.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2013.