Ex-Election Commissioner Confesses Printing Extra Ballots
Islamabad: The former election commissioner for Punjab, who oversaw the 2013 general elections in the province, has confessed to getting extra ballot papers printed on the request of returning officers (ROs) in several constituencies.
“I do not know the [exact] number but in many constituencies ballot papers beyond the 100% electorate were printed on the request of ROs,” said Mehboob Anwar in his sworn statement on Thursday while recording his testimony before the Judicial Commission investigating claims of organised rigging in the 2013 polls.
He also told the panel that he did not seek permission from his high-ups for the printing of ballot papers but he did inform the election commission about this in writing.
The three-judge commission, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Nasir-ul-Mulk, has urged Anwar not to discuss anything regarding the last general elections with anyone because he was giving his statement on oath.
“Do you remember the RO had requested for 15,000 ballot papers in excess than the registered voters in NA-154 Lodhran,” Abdul Hafiz Pirzada, the counsel for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), questioned Anwar, to which the official replied in the negative.
He said the ROs decided the number of ballot papers required in each constituency and made their request in writing. All the correspondence record should be available with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), he added.
Anwar also confirmed the printing process started on April 19, 2013, but the delivery of printed material to the ROs was not completed till May 5, 2013. He, however, expressed his ignorance about the reasons for delay.
The official admitted that ballot papers should have been sent to the ROs three days before the polling date. He added that no one sought an explanation from him regarding the delay in the delivery of ballot papers. “It is true that we did not complete the delivery process of ballot papers on time.”
On another query by the PTI counsel, he denied his direct connection with any member of the election commission. However, he said he had formally met with ECP Punjab member Riaz Kayani only once on March 26, 2013, in the office of the Provincial Election Commission.
Anwar also replied in the negative when asked by Pirzada if he had seen the statement or discussed with any official the reply submitted by the ECP to the Judicial Commission and that agencies involved in the printing process had demanded double the amount of ballot papers due to the increase in number of contesting candidates.
Anwar served as the provincial election commissioner for Punjab from December 2011 till December 2014. He was under the supervision of the chief election commissioner and complied with his directions.
The hearing was adjourned till Friday after the PTI counsel asked for two more hours to cross-examine the former provincial election commissioner. Pirzada will resume the cross-examination today.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan, who started the campaign to get the last elections audited, was also in the courtroom, keenly observing the proceedings along with other party leaders.
In the end, when Shahid Hamid, counsel for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), told the commission he wanted to submit a list of witnesses, the chief justice asked him to submit the list by Monday.
Nasir-ul-Mulk also asked the lawyers of political parties to intimate the witnesses about the purpose of their summoning so they could prepare for why they had been called for.
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