By-election results were withheld after electoral staff went 'missing'
The Election Commission of Pakistan has ordered re-polling in Sialkot’s NA-75 after the results of the February 19 by-elections were challenged by the members of the opposition.
The PML-N accused the PTI of attempting to rig the elections after some presiding members had gone missing during the vote count on the nights that votes were cast.
The officers came to the ECP February 20 morning with the results and claimed that they left early because the fog was too dense.
The electoral body heard the case over the objections raised by the opposition members and ruled that the by-elections were neither fair nor just.
The re-polling will be held on March 18. At least 360 polling stations will be set up in the constituency.
Sialkot’s NA-75 seat fell vacant after PML-N MNA Iftikharul Hassan Shah died of a heart attack in August 2020. He was also a member of the standing committees on Interior and Narcotics Control and National Food Security and Research.
Those contesting the by-election include PML-N’s Syed Nosheen Iftikhar and PTI’s Ali Asjad.
The voting was held from 8am to 5pm at polling stations across the constituency. Polling at some stations in Daska was halted after two people were killed and seven injured in a firing incident.
The next day, the results were withheld after the results of 20 polling stations were delayed.
PML-N’s Syed Nosheen Iftikhar, who was contesting the election, wrote a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja and asked him to order a recount in all polling stations in Daska.
She claimed that the results of 335 polling stations came in Friday night, while the staff of 23 stations went missing. She said that a forensic audit of all Daska polling stations should be conducted.
ECP had also ordered an inquiry in the matter and asked Punjab IG to look into it.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said that he would ask the PTI candidate to request re-polling at 20 polling stations in Daska.
“Even though there is no legal compulsion to do so before ECP announces results, I would request our PTI candidate to ask for re-polling in the 20 polling stations opposition is crying hoarse over in the Daska NA-75 by-election,” PM Khan said in a Twitter post on February 22.
The ECP’s decision is a defeat for the PML-N and their mindset that the electoral body or any other institution in the country is not free, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz said while speaking to the media outside the commission.
“The most important thing for us is the autonomy of our institutions.”
Faraz added that PTI’s legal committee will decide its next step after the ECP releases its written verdict. “This is a one-of-a-kind decision in the history of the Election Commission.”