Election Rigging 2013: No Additional Ballet Papers Printed after May 7
ISLAMABAD: The poll inquiry commission looking into allegations of widespread malpractices in the 2013 general elections was told on Monday that neither any demand for printing additional ballot papers came nor were these printed after May 7, 2013 – four days before the polling.
This was stated before a three-judge Judicial Commission, headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, during the third consecutive day of cross-examination of Mehboob Anwar, Punjab’s former election commissioner (PEC).
He was cross-examined by Salman Akram Raja, representing the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), and Shahid Hamid, counsel for the ruling PML-N.
The counsel representing other parties did not cross-examine the five witnesses called by the commission – the managing directors of the printing presses – on the grounds that it would prejudice the proceedings since some additional documents had been filed by the ECP. The commission had yet to admit or deny contents in documents submitted by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
As usual PTI Chairman Imran Khan, along with the party’s Secretary General Jehangir Tareen, watched the proceedings attentively.
In his cross-examination by Salman Raja, former PEC Anwar conceded that the printing of ballot papers was strictly in accordance with the original demand of the returning officers (ROs) and no additional papers had been sought or printed after May 7. The ballot papers were to be collected by representatives of the ROs directly from the Printing Corporation of Pakistan Press (PCPP), he deposed.
About additional manpower for binding and numbering of the ballot papers, Mr Anwar said the request for such people had been made after receiving a telephone call from PCPP Islamabad Managing Director Fazlur Rehman and then from the ECP’s additional secretary informing him that the MD himself had come and he should assist the printers in the matter.
But the ex-PEC said he had no idea how many people had actually been employed at the printers’ Islamabad office.
Salman Raja presented a number of documents before the commission which were also acknowledged by Mr Anwar. These include the ECP’s May 4, 2013, letter to Mr Anwar regarding shifting of some polling stations, May 5 letter addressed to all provincial election commissioners and April 27, 2013 letter about deployment of army personnel at the Pakistan Post Foundation Press (PPFP).
Mr Anwar said he was employed in the ECP in April 1976 and since then had been associated with all the nine general elections, including 2013. Other than the complaint lodged by the PTI, he said, he had never come across any formal complaint against his conduct or any officer working under him or any of the 36 district election commissioners in Punjab notified by the ECP.
He said the ECP staff had been deputed at all the five presses printing ballot papers for the general elections. He said that all polling staff who had conducted the elections for 148 national and 292 provincial assembly seats were from the judiciary. The district returning officers (DROs) were district and sessions judges and the ROs were additional district and sessions judges.
The inquiry commission disregarded a number of questions, including the one by Mr Hamid asking Mr Anwar whether he had attended the April 7, 2013, meeting of DROs, ROs and assistant ROs addressed by former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. It was also attended by the then chief justice and judges of the Lahore High Court.
Mr Hamid argued that the meeting had been mentioned in the PTI’s white paper, but the commission told him that it was not his (Anwar’s) white paper.
The chief justice asked the counsel to save his questions for the ECP witness.
Mr Hamid said he would move an application asking the commission to summon the ECP additional secretary.
According to paragraph 1(4) of the notification issued by ECP on Jan 28, 2013, Mr Anwar said, all contesting candidates and voters had been asked to avoid political activities like public meetings during a ban imposed 48 hours before the polling.
He denied that there was any complaint from presiding officers that the ROs concerned had incorrectly added the voters list.
But the chief justice observed that the absence of the complaint would have no relevance.
Mr Anwar said the election material had been delivered to each constituency in Punjab by May 10 under the security of army personnel. He said the mention of May 5 by the ECP to complete the printing process was not part of the election schedule.
The cross-examination by Mr Hamid was described by Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, representing the PTI, as an admirable effort to reduce the burden of the ECP.
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