ECP may not be able to upload election-related forms within deadline: report

Our Correspondent
Election officials counting votes in Rawalpindi after culmination of polling time on February 8, 2024. — APP
Election officials counting votes in Rawalpindi after culmination of polling time on February 8, 2024. — APP
  • ECP dealing with 300 pleas on election forms: senior official. 
  • Petitioners, respondents possessing varying Form 45s, he adds.
  • Election Act 2017 bounds ECP to publish documents within 14 days.

ISLAMABAD: As the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) hears multiple petitions against election results mainly those of the National Assembly, it seems that the electoral body "might miss" the February 22 (today) deadline to post Forms 45, and 46, and 47 on its website as it is legally obligated to do so, The News reported on Thursday.

Despite the ECP's best efforts, a senior ECP official acknowledged that it was doubtful the electoral body would make the legal deadline — something it had previously been unable to accomplish for varying reasons.

As per the official, the electoral body is dealing with around 300 petitions, on the high courts' orders, concerning the discrepancy between Forms 45 and 47, along with the fact that numerous petitioners were holding Forms 45 that were different from the ones that the respondents possessed.

The ECP is already under fire for allegedly not being able to conduct elections fairly and with transparency, and for the first time, a strong voice was raised in the Senate session a day earlier that the chief election commissioner should be arrested and a case of high treason be initiated against him.

However, during the same sitting, a legislator from Balochistan had contended could a presiding officer or a commissioner could rig elections and insisted on talking about those, who were behind it.

Section 95 (8) of the Elections Act 2017 makes it binding on the returning officers (ROs) to send to the commission signed copies of the consolidated statement of the results of the count and final consolidated result together with results of the count and the ballot paper account, as received from the presiding officers.

Similarly, Section 95(10) of the Act reads: "On receipt of documents under sub-section (8), the commission shall, within fourteen days from the date of the poll, publish the documents on its website."

Separately, the ECP’s inquiry committee, headed by ECP Member Sindh Nisar Ahmad Durrani, probing the former Rawalpindi Division commissioner's allegations has completed its work within the stipulated period of three days and will submit its report to the commission today.

"The committee had statements of the District Returning Officers (DROs) and the Returning Officers (ROs) before it as well as the transcript of the former commissioner Rawalpindi's news conference.

The forum also had deliberations on what options the electoral body can exercise in the backdrop of his allegations," sources said.

The committee noted the DROs and ROs had denied the allegations of rigging and result manipulation hurled by the commissioner.

Meanwhile, the ECP issued the formal notification of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid's (PML-Q) returned candidate Chaudhry Salik Hussain from NA-64, Gujrat-III.

According to the notification, Salik pocketed 100,379 votes while his closest opponent, the PTI-backed Qaisra Elahi received 89,795 votes.

Separately, the ECP has reserved its verdict on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed candidate Salman Akram Raja's petition against the alleged change in the election results of NA-128, Lahore.

A two-member bench of the commission heard the election petition regarding NA-128 while the petitioner appeared along with advocate Makhdoom Ali Khan, while lawyers Shahzad Shaukat and Zia-ur-Rehman also appeared on behalf of Aun Chaudhry, his rival candidate.

During the hearing of the plea, Raja contended that according to Form 45, he had won, but had been defeated in Form 47 and pointed out that according to Form 45, there was a clear difference between the votes cast in the provincial assembly and the NA, according to him, 110,000 votes were cast fake.

Meanwhile, Chaudhry’s lawyer argued that this was not a case of the ECP but of the election tribunal, according to the law, adding that it is not necessary to have a candidate around while furnishing Form 47.

The bench later reserved its judgement in the matter.

Likewise, the ECP has reserved its verdict in the election case concerning the NA-235 and NA-236 constituencies in Karachi.

During the hearing, ECP's Durrani remarked that the ROs of NA-235 and NA-236 had submitted the reports while the petitioner Saif-ur-Rehman’s lawyer said that they had only one request that there was a difference between Form 45 and Form 47.

It is pertinent to know that the Sindh High Court had directed the ECP to deliver the verdict by February 22 (today).

The petitioner argued that it was for the commission to decide which Form 45 was original and which was fake. If the results have been made on fake Form 45, then the results of the constituency will have to be declared null and void.

In response, Durrani questioned whether the matters should be sent to the election tribunals. To which the lawyer replied that according to the Elections Act, the ECP can make decisions on these applications, adding that four political parties have a Form 45, whereas Form 45 of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) is different.

Meanwhile, ECP member Babar Hassan Bharwana lamented that Thursday was the last day to give decisions on 50 applications, how could the commission scrutinise all Form 45? The lawyer said that according to Form 45, Saif-ur-Rehman received 113,000 votes, whereas only 1,100 votes were written in Form 47.

To this, the ECP member remarked, "I wonder who can dare to convert more than one lakh votes."

The lawyer replied that it is the responsibility of the ECP to determine the facts and prevent such rigging in the future.

Later, the ECP reserved its verdict.