The Peshawar High Court reserved its judgment on 20 petitions filed against local government re-polls in 365 polling stations across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Wednesday.
The two-member bench, comprising Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan, hearing the petitions is likely to announce the judgment on Friday. The bench heard extensive arguments and adjourned the hearing of petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MPA Zahid Durrani and two others for Thursday (today).
During the proceedings, the judges raised a number of points pertinent to the electoral process.
Food for thought
Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth remarked the Election Commission of Pakistan had the authority to conduct elections and decide upon schedules. However, Seth added, it should keep scenarios like Ramazan and the scorching heat into consideration.
Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan meanwhile questioned denying women suffrage. “Under what law can any elder or candidate restrain a woman from exercising her fundamental right to vote on Election Day?”
Counsel for petitioner Nawaz Ali Khan, Amjid Ali told the court his client was declared as the returned candidate [elected] and the RO had announced Nawaz received 1,651 votes while the runner-up received 1,372 votes on May 30. He said subsequently the DRO announced re-polls at a women’s polling station where only nine votes were cast on Election Day. “The DRO has no authority to order re-polls in any polling station,” he contended.
Meanwhile, the commission’s counsel, Shumail Ahmad Butt, informed the court the voting was stopped at the said polling station following a scuffle between locals. “Women were not allowed to vote which the contesting candidates had agreed to in writing,” he maintained.
Re-polls in Ramazan
On the other hand, some of the petitioners requested the court to direct the ECP to hold re-polls after the holy month. The court reserved its judgment on the filed petitions, adjourning the hearing of three.
Following the LG result announcement, a host of candidates filed petitions with the court, opening up another Pandora’s Box in the ongoing LG controversy. On July 3, PHC suspended the ECP’s notification, issued for re-polls, and stayed the elections scheduled for July 5 till the issuance of further directives.
Amongst the irked petitioners was PK-24, Mardan II MPA Zahid Durrani. “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.
The MPA had 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. He had asked the court has to decide whether an election of this kind could be deemed fair or not. “The elections were rigged. Not rendering them null and void will be a violation of our fundamental rights,” he said. The PTI MPA had requested the court to direct respondents to conduct fresh re-polls across the province.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2015.