The election tribunal has said that the votes cast in Ghotki’s NA-200 constituency are valid. The defeated candidate had claimed earlier that only 30 per cent of the votes could be verified.
During a hearing on Wednesday, the tribunal dismissed Khalid Khan Lund’s petition in which he had challenged the election of Pakistan Peoples Party’s National Assembly candidate, Ali Gohar Khan Mahar, who won the May 2013 general elections by securing 86,579 votes. The runner-up, Lund, had bagged 76,615 votes as an independent candidate.
The election commission had declared Mahar as the winner but Lund challenged his victory, accusing him of carrying out massive rigging in the polls. On the petitioner’s request, the election tribunal had ordered the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) to carry out verification and matching of the ballots polled at 69 polling stations in the constituency in order to unearth the alleged rigging.
According to NADRA’s report, only 12,647 counterfoils of the total 42,776 ballots polled could be proven to have the thumb impressions of genuine voters, said Lund’s lawyer. The remaining 30,129 votes remained unverified for various reasons, he added.
Out of these unverified counterfoils, 4,920 counterfoils either had no number of the voter’s national identity card (NIC) or it had an incorrect number. The lawyer said that 24,829 counterfoils had poor quality thumb impressions that the automated fingerprints identification system failed to identify.
Under section 33(2)(e) of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1976, the presiding officer shall record the number of the voter’s NIC on the counterfoil of the ballot paper, stamp it with the official mark, sign it and obtain the voter’s thumb impression on it, the lawyer pointed out. Since only 9,964 counterfoils are in favour of the winning candidate, the lawyer argued that his victory becomes meaningless.
In such a situation, he pleaded the election tribunal declare the entire election in NA-200 as void under Section 70(a) of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1976, as it has been materially affected by the failure of a person to comply with the provisions of the Act. The lawyer also claimed that Mahar was not righteous, sagacious, non-profligate, and honest and Ameen as required under Article 62 of the Constitution, as he had failed to disclose his assets on his nomination form filed before the returning officer and concealed wealth worth millions of rupees.
Opposing this argument, Mahar’s lawyer said that the petitioner had never applied for the audit of the ballot papers of 69 polling stations. Therefore, there is no evidence in support of his plea that any rigging was committed during the polls, he claimed.
During the hearing, former Sindh High Court judge Zafar Ahmed Khan Sherwani, who was heading the tribunal, said that Lund’s lawyer has failed to prove that rigging was carried out at the given 69 polling stations during the polls. He has also failed to prove that some provisions of the 1976 act were not complied with, the judge noted.
The tribunal also over-ruled the objections of his eligibility as required under Article 62, noting that the petitioner had not given any details of the assets allegedly accumulated by the returned candidate. Hence, the petition was dismissed.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2014.