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PPP to ‘consider’ asking ECP for recount of votes in other NA seats

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addresses a press conference at PPP Media Cell in Karachi on Monday, May 03, 2021. — PPI/File

PPP welcomes the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to order a recounting of votes cast in Karachi’s NA-249 by-election and will consider approaching it for a recount of seats won in 2018 with a low margin of votes, the party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said Tuesday.

The ECP has accepted PML-N candidate Miftah Ismail’s request for a recount in the NA-249 by-poll. In a statement, it directed all the political parties to reach the office of Returning Officer at 9am on May 6 where the recounting would be held.

“PPP welcomes new precedent set by allowing [constituency] wide recount without specific [polling station] complaints,” the party chairman said.

“Many seats from 2018 fall within 5% threshold and candidates have not been given this chance. Once ECP order is out, PPP will consider going to ECP for recounts in all such seats,” he added.

Responding to Bilawal’s “kind suggestion” of considering to move ECP for a recount of votes where it lost by a small margin, PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz thanked PPP.

“Asking ECP for a recount on 2018 seats will be a windfall for PMLN because PMLN will be the beneficiary now as it was the prime victim of DHANDLI (rigging) then,” she said.

“Will enable PMLN to win all it seats it lost to dhandli by a margin of few hundred votes. Thank u PPP for the kind suggestion,” she added.

Miftah Ismail’s request

Ismail had written a letter to Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, seeking a vote recount in NA-249 after he lost the poll by 683 votes. PPP’s Qadir Khan Mandokhel had pulled off a surprising victory in the April 29 election with 16,156 votes.

The PML-N had also requested the ECP to conduct a forensic audit of the votes in the NA-249 constituency. In his letter, Ismail had claimed that presiding officers from 34 polling stations did not WhatsApp the results.

He had also claimed that many Form 45s were not signed and that the counting of votes on Form 45 given to the party is different from the forms issued by the returning officer (RO), which were not provided to them.

Today’s hearing

A four-member bench headed by the CEC heard Ismail’s request for a recount, in which Latif Khosa from PPP and Salman Akram Raja from PML-N argued.

During the hearing, PML-N lawyer Salman Akram Raja presented Form 45 to the commission and said that under the law, a signed Form 45 must be given to every polling agent. “At 167 polling stations, Form 45 was not signed by any polling agent. Not a single Form 46 has been issued to us and none of them were signed. Something happened with Form 45 and Form 46 after polling ended.”

He said the issue of Form 46 was problematic and should be investigated as no presiding officer had issued it at any polling station, except one. The procedure was not followed as per the law and we were officially told a difference of 683 votes, he said.

The PML-N’s counsel said the matter of Form 45 and 46 shows interference and demanded a recount in the whole constituency. “This matter should be fully investigated as the whole process has become suspicious.”

On the other hand, PPP lawyer Latif Khosa argued that no complaint was lodged with the RO or the Election Commission during or after the polling and the RO is not bound to accept the recount request.

“They didn’t provide evidence and just said that there are doubts,” he said.

Khosa said this application is absolutely “unjustified.”

Later, after the arguments of both parties were concluded, the Election Commission reserved its decision briefly, before announcing that it accepts the request for a constituency-wide recount.

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