Trend Brought Forth of Printing Excess Ballot Papers by PTI Counsel

Written by  Published by:Pakistan Views Wednesday, 13 May 2015 09:09

ISLAMABAD: Senior counsel Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, who represents the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), highlighted the trend of printing ballot papers in excess of the total number of registered voters in a number of constituencies of Punjab that emerged during the 2013 general elections, before the judicial commission on Tuesday.

“Have you noticed the increase [in the number of] ballot papers that were printed over the number of registered voters,” Mr Pirzada asked.

“Everyone has noticed. We have all noticed,” observed Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk while heading a three-judge commission looking into allegations of widespread rigging in the 2013 general elections.

On Tuesday, former Punjab Election Commissioner Mehboob Anwar was cross-examined by Mr Pirzada for the fourth consecutive day, during which he was confronted with a number of official documents, including a report he issued to rebut PTI allegations of rigging in Punjab.

PTI chief Imran Khan, Secretary General Jahangir Tareen, head of the PTI task force on rigging Ishaq Khakwani and other party leaders were in court and listened attentively to Mr Pirzada’s arguments.

The former Punjab election commissioner admitted before the commission that the printing of ballot papers in the province was carried out under his control and supervision. He also admitted that the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) instruction of April 18, 2013 did not mention any directions for the printing of excess ballot papers.

Former Punjab election commissioner admitted before the commission that the printing of ballot papers was carried out under his control and supervision

Mr Anwar was also shown a number of documents by Mr Pirzada, which showed the increase in the total number of ballot papers printed, compared to the total number of registered voters in different constituencies.

In the case of Bahawalpur, Multan and Sahiwal divisions, the total number of registered voters, according to the ECP’s distribution plan added up to 24.33 million, whereas there was a marked difference of 200,000 ballot papers, which were printed in excess.

Similarly, the total number of registered voters for Lahore and Gujranwala divisions was 31.44m, but the total number of ballot books printed by the Printing Corporation of Pakistan (PCP) Lahore was 33.8m.

A similar difference appeared between the election distribution plan and the actual number of ballot books printed in the divisions of Dera Ghazi Khan, Sargodha and Faisalabad.

But Mr Anwar deposed that he never added or reduced the actual number of ballot papers demanded by the district returning officers.

Mr Pirzada also showed the election official tabulated columns of different constituencies prepared under his own signatures. To illustrate his point, Mr Pirzada highlighted the difference of 30,450 ballot papers printed for the constituency NA-154 (Lodhran), where Jahangir Tareen had lost to PML-N’s Mohammad Siddiq Khan. The total number of registered voters in the constituency was 370,150, whereas the actual number of ballot papers printed was 400,600, against a requirement of 385,400 as demanded by the Lodhran DRO.

But Mr Anwar denied that he ever ordered the number of ballot papers for the constituency to be increased.

Mr Anwar also said he was not aware of the allegations levelled by Mr Tareen against the returning officers in his constituency, nor was he aware which four constituencies the PTI had asked for an audit of. However, he said that he had read in the newspapers about NA-125, where Khawaja Saad Rafique had won against the PTI’s Hamid Khan.

In the case of NA-118 (Lahore-I), where PML-N’s Mohammad Riaz Malik defeated PTI’s Hamid Zaman, 56,144 extra ballot papers were printed, since the number of registered voters in the constituency was 334,256 and the actual number of ballot papers printed was 390,400.

In Hamza Shahbaz’s constituency, NA-119 (Lahore-II), where PTI’s Mohammad Madni lost the election, the number of registered voters was 305,570 but the actual number of printed ballots was 368,500.

In NA-149 Multan, where Javed Hashmi won against PML-N’s Sheikh Mohammad Tariq Rasheed, but lost the subsequent by-election, the registered number of voters in the area was 341,213 while 341,300 ballot papers were printed.

In an interesting aside, PML-N counsel Shahid Hamid called for an end to taunts that he was defending the ECP’s case. “The commission is represented by the very able and competent Salman Akram Raja and I am here only to defend the PML-N,” the counsel said.

The ECP also submitted its own list of witnesses before the commission on Tuesday. The witnesses include: ECP Additional Secretary Syed Sher Afgan, ECP Deputy Director Shabbir Ahmed Mughal, ECP Director Babar Malik, ECP Director General (Budget) Ashfaq Ahmad Sarwar, Punjab Election Commission Deputy Director Abdul Waheed, Printing Corporation of Pakistan Secretary Mohammad Naeem, ECP Director General (Budget) Raja Ghiasuddin and PCP Islamabad Managing Director Fazalur Rehman.

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