Saturday Feb 20, 2021
The Election Commission of Pakistan has officially said it suspects rigging in the by-elections for the NA-75 constituency in Sialkot.
The ECP issued on Saturday afternoon an explanatory statement on the delay and suspension of the by-election results for the NA-75 Daska constituency.
Earlier today, the results of the NA-75 by-poll were withheld on the PML-N’s request amid a controversy surrounding 23 presiding officers who had allegedly 'gone missing' late in the night.
According to police officials, the 23 polling officials had gotten stuck in far-flung areas of the constituency due to fog. In a late-night development, police had retrieved the officers and brought them to the office of the district returning officer, where leaders of PML-N and PTI were also present.
However, the ECP statement noted that several attempts were made to contact the presiding officers, but no response was received from them.
The ECP said the chief election commissioner tried contacting the Punjab IG and the relevant commissioner and deputy commissioner on receiving information from the district returning officer (DRO) and returning officer (RO) about the presiding officers who had 'gone missing'.
The election commissioner, however, received no response.
The Punjab chief secretary was contacted around 3am after which he gave assurances of tracing the 'missing' presiding officers and polling bags for the NA-75 results, the ECP statement said. Later, he, too, became unavailable and stopped responding. The presiding officers eventually appeared with the polling bags by 6am.
The DRO and RO reported that the results of 20 polling stations in the NA-75 by-election are now suspected to have been rigged, so it is not possible to release the final result of the constituency without a full inquiry, the ECP said.
It added that the DRO will send a detailed report on the matter to the ECP.
The statement said the ECP had instructed the DRO and RO to conduct a complete inquiry and identify those responsible. They have, meanwhile, been stopped from announcing the initial results for the by-election.
The ECP also directed the provincial election commissioner and joint provincial election commissioner to reach the office of the DRO and RO so that "[we] can reach the bottom of the matter and records can be completely protected".
"This matter looks like a weakness of the administration and law enforcement agencies," the ECP said.
ECP's full statement can be read below.
By-polls were held in four national and provincial assembly constituencies of Pakistan a day earlier.
Polling was done in NA-75, Sialkot-IV Daska, PP-51 Gujranwala I, NA-45 Kurram I and PK-63 Nowshera III. The seats fell vacant due to the death of lawmakers.
According to the unofficial results, a PTI candidate emerged victorious in NA-45, while PML-N candidates won the PP-51 and PK-63 seats.
Senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal had said the results of NA-75 polling stations were doubtful and requested the ECP to withhold the results.
In an application to the chief election commissioner, he asked that the result for NA-75 be withheld till "investigation of 23 missing presiding officers abducted by administration and determination of authenticity of results submitted by them by PMLN candidate Nosheen Iftikhar."
Iqbal also demanded a forensic audit be conducted or re-polling be done in these polling stations.
Meanwhile, Punjab government spokesperson Firdous Ashiq Awan had claimed a victory with a margin of 7,827 votes and blamed PML-N of hooliganism and taking the RO hostage to stop him from announcing the results.