Punjab’s former election commissioner, who supervised the 2013 general elections in the province, has admitted that the returning officers (ROs) did not adhere to the election commission’s formula for demanding extra ballot papers.
While some ROs requested for only three percent extra ballot papers, in other cases the ROs asked for up to 30 percent more ballot papers than the total registered voters, said Mehboob Anwar on Friday while testifying before the Judicial Commission investigating allegations of organised rigging in the 2013 polls.
The former provincial election commissioner, during his cross-examination by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) counsel Abdul Hafiz Pirzada, said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had communicated a unique formula to the ROs to be followed for demanding ballot papers in excess of the voter count. But he did not seek explanations from the ROs about the disparity in their demands for extra papers.
An ECP official told The Express Tribune that according to the commission’s rules the ROs could only demand five percent extra ballot papers.
PTI’s task force in-charge Ishaq Khan Khakwani contends that 28 percent extra ballot papers were given to ROs in NA-125, whose winner was recently unseated by an election tribunal. He alleges that in one provincial assembly, more than 35 percent extra ballot papers were provided.
While recording his statement before the three-judge commission, Anwar said the delivery invoices of ballot papers to ROs should be available with the election commission. On which, Pirzada asked the judges to summon the record.
To a question, the former polling chief replied that all reserved material, including ballot books, electoral rolls, ink and stamps, were sent to the ROs, who then sent them to the presiding officers (POs). The ROs retained the reserved material, of which extra ballot papers were also a part, he added.
He admitted he had requested the then additional chief secretary for provision of 100 to 200 people conversant with numbering and binding of ballot papers, but only got hold of 78 such people from Lahore on May 8.
The PTI counsel pointed out to the commission that while the ECP claimed only 34 people were hired, its ex-official confirmed that 78 people were brought from Lahore alone.
When ECP counsel Salman Akram Raja told the commission, headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, the polling authority had prepared the data of 50 constituencies, the chief justice asked him to file the documents by Monday.
The top judge also directed the ECP counsel to examine the documents presented by the PTI as evidence in the office of the Inquiry Commission secretary at the Supreme Court building. The evidence is spread over 160,000 pages.
The commission has summoned PTI’s five more witnesses for recording their statements and cross-examination on May 11.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2015.