The judicial commission investigating allegations of rigging in 2013 general elections has summoned then Punjab caretaker chief minister Najam Sethi and television anchor Hamid Mir for cross-examination on Monday.
The three-judge tribunal headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk issued the orders on Friday after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf counsel Abdul Hafiz Pirzada said he wanted to conclude his cross-examination by questioning Sethi and Mir.
During his cross-examination by PML-N counsel Shahid Hamid, former secretary of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Ishtiaq Ahmad Khan said the election body had directed the returning officers (RO) and district returning officers (DRO) to deposit all the post-election material with the treasury except Form 16 and 17, which were sent to the ECP immediately after election for consolidating results.
He also told the judges that the directions were given to ROs and DROs as the election commission did not have a storage facility at its secretariat in Islamabad or at its provincial offices all over the country.
On September 17, 2012, Ishtiaq Ahmad said, a consultative meeting of 16 political parties had proposed that judicial officers should be appointed as ROs and DROs. Later on, the ECP requested the National Judicial Policymaking Committee (NJPMC) to allow district court judges to perform the duties.
The then ECP secretary said that he briefed the NJPMC meeting held at the Supreme Court building, wherein the committee granted permission to judicial officers to act as ROs and DROs.In March 2013, he added, a handbook was issued under the signature of the then chief election commissioner for the guidance of ROs and DROs.
Ishtiaq Ahmad said that international observers from European Union, Commonwealth, Japan, National Democratic Institute, Malaysia and a few other countries as well as local observers of the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) were allowed to visit polling stations during the general elections.
He said the observers sent their reports and on the basis of that, the ECP compiled its post-election review. The report was uploaded on the ECP website and copies of it were provided to the members of the electoral reforms committee. He added that the caretaker government had provided full assistance to the ECP during the 2013 elections, as it was a constitutional requirement under Article 220 of Constitution.
Replying to a question by ECP’s counsel Salman Akram Raja, the ex-secretary said all presiding officers (PO) were given two sets of Form 14 and 15 according to the ECP instructions. The POs had to provide one set to the RO and the other was to go in the white bag for National Assembly candidate and the brown bag for the provincial assembly seat.
The hearing was adjourned till 1:30pm on Monday.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2015.