Friday, August 03, 2018

General Election 2018: Candidates from Karachi question rejection of votes

There are four National Assembly constituencies in Karachi where number of rejected votes surpasses lead of victorious candidates

ECP officials counting votes at a polling station in Karachi on election day. Photo: AFP 

Gone are the days when the losing party in an election would accuse the winner of ‘thappas’ — forceful stamping of ballots.

At present, the buzz is about the ‘double thappas’ —which revolve around the vast difference between the winner’s victory margin and the number of rejected votes.

There are four National Assembly constituencies in Karachi where the number of rejected votes was higher than the lead of victorious candidates.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif, who lost the NA-249 seat to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Faisal Vawda, reported this fact to the returning officer (RO).

Shehbaz maintained that the difference between his and Vawda’s votes was merely 718 whereas 2,684 votes were rejected. The PML-N president raised a question mark over the unusually high number of rejected votes. However, his plea for a recount was rejected by the RO.

Shehbaz is not alone. Khawaja Sohail Mansoor, a Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) candidate and a former MNA, took his case to the RO as well.

He contested on NA-239 where he was beaten by a margin of just 336 votes.

Muhammad Akram of the PTI secured victory after bagging 69,147 votes while Mansoor received 68,811 votes. Similarly, the number of rejected votes was 3,281.

As in Shehbaz’s case, the MQM-P leader’s application for recount was also rejected by the RO. Moreover, Mansoor’s plea to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) met the same fate. Finally, he took the matter to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) where his petition has been approved for hearing and the relevant parties issued notices.

Mansoor also maintains that the RO did not issue him the Form 45, which tabulates results of each polling station in the constituency and is a right of the candidate.

“I see a so-called winning lead of 336 votes and then I see 3,000 rejected votes,” an astonished Mansoor tells Geo News. “This is unfathomable, unrealistic and unfair. I demand a recount in my constituency and I am making every effort to ensure it happens.”

“Not only is this disturbing but the RO’s decision not to issue the Form 45, despite repeated requests, is equally worrisome. What is he afraid of?” questioned the MQM-P leader.

Similar results were seen on two more NA seats in Karachi. In Malir’s NA-237 constituency, PTI’s Jameel Ahmed defeated Pakistan Peoples Party’s Abdul Hakeem by bagging 33,289 votes against Hakeem’s 31,907.

The PTI candidate gained a lead of 1,382 votes while the number of rejected votes stands at 2,184.

Talking to Geo News, Hakeem shared a long list of complaints.

“Polling in many polling stations was delayed,” he claimed, adding that when he asked the RO for the results of his constituency he was informed that ECP’s much-hyped Results Transmission System had collapsed.

“For the next two days I kept waiting for hours outside the RO’s office for my results,” he recalled.

“After I got results, I filed a plea for recounting but the RO used delay tactics. By the time he rejected my application the consolidated results were already sent to the ECP. That meant my application would not be entertained. Disappointed by both forums, I filed a petition in the IHC,” he stated further.

“The RO deliberately rejected my plea at the eleventh hour so I could not approach a higher forum,” he claimed, adding that if a recount occurs, he would “surely win the seat”.

The fourth contest under scrutiny was from NA-248, where PPP’s Abdul Qadir Patel initially secured 35,124 votes against PTI’s Sardar Aziz who gained 34,101 votes.

The winner’s lead was of 1,023 votes whereas the number of rejected votes is 3,078.

Recounting exercise took place on NA-248 on the request of the PTI runner-up candidate. However, PPP's Abdul Qadir Patel was upheld as the winner of NA-248. Recount took place on all the 231 polling stations in the constituency. After recount, Patel received 35,075 votes, 49 less than the July 25 count, while Aziz secured 34,322 votes, 221 more than the original declaration.

The losing candidates, regardless of party affiliation, have expressed a mutual concern over the soaring numbers of rejected votes.

Only a recount will expose any, if at all, discrepancies.