ECP rejects PTI plea to nullify NA-122 by-poll, grants access to voter data

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday rejected Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Aleem Khan’s plea challenging the results of the NA-122 by-poll, but allowed the party access to voter data in the constituency.

An 800-page petition filed by Aleem last November alleged irregularities and pre-poll rigging in the NA-122 by-poll, and requested the ECP to declare the election null and void on the basis of ‘technical rigging’.

Aleem Khan contested the NA-122 by-polls against National Assembly (NA) Speaker and PML-N leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq in October. Sadiq reclaimed the ‘Takht-i-Lahore’, from which he had been deseated by an election tribunal in August 2015.

The tribunal’s decision had followed an earlier petition submitted by PTI Chairman Imran Khan who had challenged the 2013 election result on grounds of rigging. Sadiq had been elected to the NA from the same constituency in the 2013 General Elections, defeating PTI Chairman Imran Khan for the seat.

The ECP today rejected Aleem’s plea for re-polling in the petition, saying that as the issue was “time-barred” it could not be addressed by the commission. The ECP advised the PTI to take the matter to an election tribunal.

However, an election tribunal had last week dismissed Aleem Khan’s petition on grounds that it was not maintainable as issues raised in it were beyond the jurisdiction of the tribunal. Speaking at a press conference soon after the tribunal gave its verdict, the PTI leader had said the decision was “one-sided” and given without listening to the PTI stance.

The ECP accepted Aleem Khan’s plea to access voter records citing Section 45 of the The Representation of the People Act 1976, which pertains to the ‘public inspection of documents’.

Under Section 45, all documents retained by the Commission except the ballot papers can be requested and inspected by the public.

In its reply, the ECP reiterated the Act and said: “They are entitled to have copies of records. They can obtain documents listing persons registered under a specific address.”

The ECP further said that the petitioner was allowed to access documents listing exclusion, inclusion and deletion details of voters in the 2015 electoral roll and could compare it to the 2013 rolls.

The PTI could also access copies of supplementary lists published in July 2015, including records justifying any additions or deletions, and records of any additions made in the electoral rolls after the announcement the NA-122 by-election’s schedule, the ECP said.

But the ECP observed with serious concerns that some affidavits filed by the petitioner were false, and therefore, the Commission reserved its right to proceed against them in accordance with the law after the final verdict from the tribunal.

‘30,000 rigged votes’

Aleem Khan’s petition contended that of the 30,000 votes altered in the constituency between the general and by-elections, 22,000 lacked the documentary evidence necessary for the transfer process.

A PTI press release in Nov claimed that between the 2013 general election and Oct 2015, 30,500 voters were added, transferred, or deleted from electoral rolls in the constituency.

During this time period, the party alleged, only 7,000 new voters came of age and were automatically recorded. Of the remaining 23,000 voters, the records of only 812 voters were provided to the PTI by the ECP.

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