ISLAMABAD: The rejection of a PTI candidate’s request for a recount of votes at all 266 polling stations in PP-7 prompted a fresh round of accusations against the Election Commission of Pakistan, as the director of the Polling Party (RO), after a one-day exercise, decided that the Rawalpindi-II constituency results would be consolidated at its camp office in Kahuta on July 20 at 10 a.m.

The RO, which previously called all contending candidates to its camp office in Kahuta for a decision on the recount request on Tuesday, continued to change the time for the decision throughout the day after initially saying that a recount in all 266 polling stations was not possible.

Informed sources said Dawn that returning officer Rai Sultan Bhatti, after hearing arguments from all sides for about three hours, asked the candidates to mutually identify 15 to 20 polling stations for a recount.

Retired PTI Colonel Shabbir Awan raised questions about the high number of rejected votes, which was more than 30 times the margin of victory. He lost by a narrow margin of 49 votes while the number of votes cast was 1,516.

The main objection he raised was that most votes were discarded based on the stamps that election workers put on the back of the ballot papers under a mandatory requirement. He argued that voters and candidates were not liable if the stamp affixed by election officials was visible on the front of the ballot.

“If there was still any doubt about ECP’s action in favor of the PMLN…” PTI leader Shireen Mazari tweeted.

Claiming that the ECP rejected the PTI candidate’s request for a recount on PP-7, she said it clearly violated election laws and the constitution given the tiny margin of victory. She was of the opinion that the ECP would accept the request of the PML-N candidate Nazir Chohan to delay the announcement of the results of the by-elections under a flimsy pretext of the public order situation on the day of the election. “A similar request made earlier, namely the Karachi elections, where 5 people were killed and dozens injured on polling day, was immediately rejected by the ECP and the notification of the winning candidate from MQM was issued. next day! Such a blatant bias in favor of the PMLN is now all too evident. The CEC must resign,” she tweeted.

“The returning officer did not authorize the recount in #PP7, what further evidence is needed from a biased election commission. PTI will not accept this, if we let it, imagine what will happen in the general election,” tweeted PTI leader, retired Major Tahir Sadiq.

According to election officials, RO refused to order a recount in all polling stations, but suggested that candidates from PTI, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and other parties decide and mutually identify 15 to 20 “objectionable” polling stations where votes should be recounted.

The RO has also granted time to all applicants to consult with their legal teams for this purpose.

PML-N candidate Raja Sagheer Ahmed opposed the recount of the “rejected” votes, saying the request for a recount of the votes, “not approved or rejected”, should not be granted.

Later, while speaking to the media, PTI lawyers said, “We have requested a recount of 1,516 rejected votes and a recount of the votes including an investigation. They said the RO asked to announce the decision at 6:30 p.m.

Talk to Dawnformer MP and PTI spokesperson Sadaqat Abbasi said the PP-7 result was “dubious” as the PTI candidate was winning in 265 polling stations and his position suddenly changed with the latest result of the vote place.

He said Mr Awan had submitted a request for “consolidation of results”, but the RO reserved the decision on Tuesday. Party workers and the candidate were told to wait until 6:30 p.m., but the DS then sent a message to go home and he would inform the candidate by telephone of the decision.

“It is strange that RO refused to meet with a candidate and his lawyers or party leaders. I personally asked to meet him but he refused. He (the returning officer) was unaware of the decision,” he alleged.

He said the role of the administration and the electoral commission was also “questionable” during the election campaign. “Now that delays the question,” he said, saying it was the candidate’s right to request a recount when there was a very small difference of just 49 votes.

According to unofficial results, PML-N candidate Raja Sagheer won the by-election for the provincial assembly. He got 68,906 votes while retired PTI Colonel Shabbir Awan got 68,857 votes, Hafiz Mansoor of Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan 14,775, Raja Tanveer of Jamaat-i-Islami 1,666 and independent candidates l engineer Raja Nazakat Hussain won 339 votes and Raja Wasim garnered 3,084.

For the PP-7 constituency of Rawalpindi, which has 335,295 registered voters, a total of 266 polling stations with 787 booths were set up.

Consequently, the participation rate was 47.46% with 159,143 votes cast and 1,516 votes rejected.

Posted in Dawn, July 20, 2022