Just days after the Election Commission of Pakistan issued the 7,000-page Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa local government results and scheduled re-polls in 365 polling stations, the Peshawar High Court threw a spanner in the plan. The high court suspended the notification of re-polls on Friday.
The directives were issued by Justice Irshad Qaiser and Justice Muhammad Daud Khan while hearing several connected election petitions – including the one filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PK-24, Mardan-II MPA Zahid Durrani. Following the result announcement, a host of candidates filed petitions with the court, opening up another Pandora’s Box in the ongoing LG controversy.
“The Mardan DC, also the DRO, through a letter issued on June 3 stated that in the absence of security officials, free and fair LG elections could not be conducted,” read Durrani’s petition. His petition quoted the DRO’s letter.
Calling into question May 30
The MPA further added the RO’s assessment pointed out all parties were involved in massive rigging and that incorrectly printed ballots and poorly-trained electoral staff added to the miseries on Election Day. The petitioner said the polling process was sabotaged by countless scuffles, harassment and thrashing of ROs and AROs and numerous other irregularities.
Reaching the crux of the argument, Durrani considered re-polling 365 polling stations on July 5—an offshoot of the May 30 elections—was unlawful. Durrani said the esteemed court has to decide whether the elections can be considered fair.
“The elections were rigged. Not rendering them null and void will be a violation of our fundamental rights,” he said. The PTI MPA requested the court to direct respondents to conduct fresh re-polls across the province in accordance with the law.
During the proceedings Khushdil Khan informed the court his client Lal Badshah, hailing from Sodair in Swabi, won his seat on May 30. The ECP was about to issue his victory notification when, however, at the last minute it issued an order of re-polling on selected polling stations. He added the presiding officers had reported to the RO that polling was smooth and no untoward incident occurred in their designated areas. “The reports revealed there was no need to hold re-polls,” he added.
In another petition, Muhammad Daud Khan, a resident of Daudzai, said at first a presiding officer in his area said he received 54 votes but later on maintained not a single vote was cast in his favour. He requested the court to hold re-polls in his ward.
Lawyers presenting their arguments said the PHC DI Khan bench has already stayed re-polls in the province hence the court should maintain the decision in their cases too.
Upon hearing the arguments, the court suspended the ECP notification and issued notices to the commission to respond to the petitions. Hearing was postponed until July 14.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2015.