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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Tuesday rejected the demand of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to stop the issuance of notification of Yousuf Raza Gillani as Senator from Islamabad’s general seat, saying there was “no evidence of money or bribe” in the leaked video of his son Ali Haider Gilani.

A four-member ECP bench led by the Commission’s Member (Punjab) Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi ® heard the petition moved by three PTI Members National Assembly (MNAs) - Farrukh Habib, Maleeka Ali Bukhari and Kanwal Shauzab to stop notifying Gillani as Senator.

At the hearing, Barrister Ali Zafar, the counsel for the petitioners, said the video of Yousuf Raza Gilani’s son Ali Haider Gillani wherein he was seen engaged in “sale and purchase of votes” for his father was “undeniable evidence” of rigging in the Senate election.

The counsel said PTI-led ruling collation had 180 votes in National Assembly that elected the two senators on Islamabad seats while opposition had 160 votes, but Gillani, who was the candidate of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), won against Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh with a margin of five votes.

As many as 169 votes went to Gillani, 164 votes to Shaikh and seven votes were rejected out of a total of 340 votes that were cast in 342-seat National Assembly.

Zafar alleged that 16 MNAs from the ruling coalition engaged in foul play to favour Gillani in Senate election.

Qureshi, the ECP bench head, said, there was no reference to money/bribe or tickets in the leaked video of Gilani’s son. He asked the petitioners counsel to identify the 16 MNAs who are alleged to have sold their votes. “How can we take any action when we don’t know who are those 16 people you are referring to unless they are properly identified and evidence is given to us regarding corrupt practices,” he said

Zafar said “ECP has boundless powers to stop foul play in elections and ECP exercised those powers in case of NA-75 Daska by-election. In this case, clear video evidence is available.”

The ECP rejected the petition to stop Gilani’s notification directing the petitioners to move a fresh petition to ECP wherein the accused are clearly identified along with the related evidence.

On Monday, PTI moved an application in ECP, seeking urgent hearing of the case against former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the third petition in connection with leaked video controversy involving his son.

Talking to the media along with the two female PTI MNAs outside the ECP on Tuesday, Farrukh Habib said, “There is undeniable evidence that there was unprecedented sale and purchase of votes in Senate elections. The ECP should put its weight behind transparency and fair play and take on corrupt elements that spoil the electoral process and make it controversial.”

A night before the Senate elections, a video of Gilani’s son was widely circulated in which he was seen purportedly buying votes in favour of his father.

In his hard-hitting address to the nation televised live on Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan lashed out at ECP in the backdrop of alleged foul play on Senate’s general seat from Islamabad in March 3 elections.

The PM questioned the ECP why it had not printed barcode on 1,500 ballot papers to ensure fair polls. “You (ECP) have harmed the morality of country…this country was to become an example for others. What message you (ECP) have given to our youth that how much money was used in the election and how our politics has been corrupted,” he remarked.

He said the ECP could have conducted fair elections as it had all the required resources to do so.

Meanwhile, in another video scandal case allegedly involving PTI lawmakers ahead of March 2018 Senate polls, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) withdrew its petition from ECP after Altaf Qureshi, the ECP Member (Punjab) asked the petitioner to identify those accused of horse-trading in the video and submit related evidence in a fresh petition.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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