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ISLAMABAD: Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Tuesday entertained the petition of Miftah Ismail from Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and ordered a vote recount in the National Assembly’s entire constituency NA-249 Karachi West II — at all the 276 polling stations tomorrow (Thursday). A four-member ECP bench led by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja heard the petition.

At the hearing, PML-N candidate’s counsel Advocate Salman Akram Raja argued that the signatures of the presiding officers appointed at 167 polling stations were missing on Form-45.

He said another application would be moved on behalf of the petitioner for re-polling in NA-249 if he is not satisfied with the results of vote recount.

Advocate Latif Khosa, the counsel of Abdul Qadir Mandokhel from Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), opposed re-polling. “If there was any irregularity involving polling at NA-249, it should be identified— Mere allegations would not work,” he said.

The representatives of the by-poll contestants from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) also appeared before the ECP bench and demanded re-polling in NA-249.

After hearing all the sides, the ECP ordered vote recount in NA-249 on May 6, Thursday (tomorrow) that would start at 9 am.

ECP is faced with enormous criticism from political and public circles for deciding to hold NA-249 by-election (held April 29) on a working day and that too in Ramazan amidst alarming spread of coronavirus.

Serious questions have been raised regarding transparency of the by-polls due to unusual delay in the compilation and transmission of election results.

On Friday, the ECP issued official poll results on Form 47. But, after the political parties rejected these results, the electoral body decided to ‘withhold’ the results that were already declared by it.

According to the results issued by ECP on Form 47 on Friday, PPP’s Mandokhel bagged 16,156 votes followed by PML-N’s Miftah with 15,473 votes and TLP’s Nazeer Ahmed with 11,125 votes. Mustafa Kamal of PSP secured 9,227 votes followed by PTI’s Amjad Afridi who ended up with 8,922 votes placing him on the fifth spot in terms of the votes received. Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s (MQM-P’s) Hafiz Mursaleen got 7,511 votes.

A total of 29 candidates including 18 independents contested the by-poll.

According to ECP, out of 339,591 votes in NA-249 including 201,656 male and 137,935 female voters, the total number of votes cast was 73,471 including 50,259 male and 23,212 female voters. The voters’ turnout was 21.64 per cent. As many as 731 votes were rejected.

The defeat in NA-249 by-poll did not go down well with PML-N that was claiming victory overnight and its workers were in celebration mode over Miftah’s presumed ‘victory’ in the by-poll held earlier on Thursday.

The PML-N claimed that elections were ‘suddenly’ rigged to favour the PPP candidate. Other political parties including PTI also alleged massive rigging in the by-election and demanded a re-poll.

Meanwhile, PML-N welcomed ECP decision on NA-249 vote recount. “Happy to learn that PML-N’s demand for a vote recount in NA-249 has been accepted. The narrow difference in votes of the top contestants necessitated this in the interest of transparency. Credibility of vote is a sure foundation of democracy,” PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif tweeted.

However, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari did not seem very pleased with the verdict. “PPP welcomes new precedent set by allowing constituency wide recount without specific complaints. Many seats from 2018 fall within 5 percent threshold and candidates have not been given this chance. Once ECP order is out PPP will consider going to ECP for recounts in all such seats,” he tweeted.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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