SC maintains ECP's order to hold re-polls in NA-75 Daska



The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday rejected the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) appeal against the earlier directives of the Election Commission of Pakistan for re-polling in the constituency of NA-75 Sialkot-IV (Daska) and maintained the polling body's decision. 

The ECP had earlier declared the by-poll held on February 19 in the constituency void and ordered a fresh election on March 18 which was last rescheduled to take place on April 10.

A three-member apex bench presided by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, dismissed PTI candidate Ali Asjad Malhi's petition and announced the short order after hearing arguments by all sides. Details of the order would be issued later.

Speaking to the media, the PTI’s Malhi said the party will deliberate upon filing a review petition after the detailed judgement is released by the court. He expressed confidence about beating the PML-N and added that he respected the court’s decision in the matter.

During today's proceedings, Justice Ata Bandial urged the counsel to state the legal points that were necessary and rely only on the documents on which the commission had made its decision. 

Lawyer Mian Abdul Rauf prayed that there was no mention of organised fraud in the ECP decision and the decision of the commission was a violation of the law.

The judge remarked that the electoral body made the decision without listening to the administration.

"It is a fact that the situation in the constituency was bad. It is not right to say that all parties did not get a competitive environment for the election competition. The word 'competitive environment' is not used for voters," the judge remarked.

PTI lawyer Shehzad Shaukat asked during the proceedings regarding the disappearance of the presiding officers. "Those responsible for the disappearance should come forward, it is necessary to probe the officers. Which was not done," he further prayed

Justice Muneeb Akhtar also asked why the election material arrived late in the constituency.

Read more: SC dismisses petition seeking suspension of ECP’s decision to hold re-polls in NA-75

The DG Law of ECP said Rangers were also present at the polling stations where the presiding officers went 'missing'.

Justice Bandial remarked that two people were also killed and one was injured in a firing incident in the constituency.. "The Election Commission failed to take appropriate action in Daska," he added.

"Whoever is responsible for the disappearances of the presiding officers has caused disruption in the electoral process. If the results are affected, re-polling may take place. Ten polling stations are also shown in one building. These details are mentioned in the Election Commission's own documents."

ECP's earlier order

The electoral body had earlier declared the by-poll held on February 19 in the constituency as void and ordered a fresh election on March 18.

The ECP issued a short order, signed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja and four commission members, Justice (retd) Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi, Justice (retd) Mrs Irshad Qaisar, Nisar Ahmed Durrani and Shah Muhamad Jatoi.

"This Commission in exercise of powers under Article 218(3) the Constitution read with section 9(1) of the Elections Act. 2017, declares the poll held on 19.02.2021 in the subject constituency (NA-75, Sialkot-IV) as void and orders fresh poll/re-poll in the entire constituency on 18th March," it said.

The order was issued after hearing of a case filed by Syeda Nosheen Iftikhar, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate in the by-election for verification of 23 missing polling stations' results. Ali Asjad Malhi was the candidate of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

The ECP said the election in the constituency had not been conducted in a transparent manner, incidents of murders, firing and injuries, bad law and order situation and other circumstances led to the whole process being doubtful.

 

(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)