The inquiry commission investigating into allegations of rigging in the 2013 general elections Tuesday took exception to the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q)’s allegation that the returning officers (ROs) had rigged the polls.
The three-judge panel headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Nasirul Mulk asked PML-Q’s counsel Dr Khalid Ranjha to submit supporting evidence instead of levelling allegations against the ROs.
The party had previously requested the inquiry body to summon the ROs from different constituencies, including NA-61, NA- 67, NA-104, NA-134, NA-140, NA-142, NA-164 and NA-186.
“These ROs should be asked why they did not issue mandatory notices to the contesting candidates and why they had conducted consolidation proceedings in the absence of the candidates and their election agents,” stated the application.
The PML-Q seeks to know whether the ROs were negligent or they were instructed or pressured into doing so by someone.
The party also requested the commission to find out when and why the ROs had issued directives for cordoning off their premises, “denying the candidates and their polling agents access to the consolidation proceedings”.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Dr Ranjha said different rigging methods had been employed in every election. “In the 2013 polls, it was done through the ROs.”
Upon this, CJP Nasir expressed his anger and told the PML-Q’s counsel that he was giving a sweeping statement.
“Is your statement based only on the grounds that the ROs did not issue notices to the candidates at the time of results consolidation?”
Dr Ranjha said former president Asif Ali Zardari had also claimed that the elections were rigged by the ROs.
“Then bring him (Zardari) as a witness,” CJP Nasir told the counsel. Justice Amir Hani Muslim also said that if Dr Ranjha had proof against the ROs, then it should be brought on the record.
The counsel submitted that this was not a personal issue. “I have furnished affidavits of 14 candidates who believe that the ROs had rigged the elections.”
The commission decided to keep the PML-Q’s plea pending regarding the summoning of the ROs until Wednesday (today) and asked Salman Akram Raja, counsel for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), to furnish Form XV (Ballot Paper Account) of those constituencies wherein the PML-Q had levelled rigging allegations.
Meanwhile, the commission also recorded the statements of several ECP officials, one of whom confirmed that a letter was written regarding nomination of intelligence officials to visit the Postal Foundation Press Islamabad on the subject of clearance of the area as well as the personnel.
Printing Corporation of Pakistan Press (PCPP) Islamabad Manager Fazlur Rehman said the Postal Service had delivered around 4.1 million unnumbered ballot papers to the PCPP on May 5 and 6, 2013.
He admitted that additional need of manpower arose on account of unnumbered ballot papers and later on, trained people were hired for numbering the ballot papers. “There are some possibilities that ballot papers might have been wasted due to certain reasons.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 3rd, 2015.