–Two Form 49 issued in Toba Tek Singh’s constituency with no track of 237 votes
–RO expresses helplessness amid ‘pressure from certain quarters’
–PTI says ordering recount out of LHC’s jurisdiction
–PML-N’s winning candidate says ‘did everything in accordance with law’
LAHORE: Amid claims of the caretaker Punjab government as well as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of holding free and fair elections, a rather interesting case of alleged rigging has surfaced in PP-123 of Toba Tek Singh-IV, where two Form 49 – the final consolidated result – were issued by the Returning Officer (RO) with no track of as many as 237 votes, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Pir Qutab Ali Shah alias Ali Baba had bagged the Punjab Assembly seat from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Sonia Ali after recounting, barely managing a lead of 17 votes.
Following the orders of Lahore High Court (LHC) on a petition filed by Shah, the RO of PP-123, Shehwar Amin Wahga, had issued Form 49 for the constituency which tabulated consolidated results including postal ballots.
Sources said that the new Form 49 issued by Wahga had no track of 237 votes that had been deducted from the total number of valid votes polled with no further record or addition to the number of invalid votes – 4,527 – which is the same in both the forms issued on July 28 and August 9.
They also said that recount in any constituency could only be sought before the commencement of the consolidation process, which began on July 27 and ended on 28. Shah’s appeal; however, was filed on July 28, which was a violation of Section 95 of the Elections Act, 2017.
Sources told Pakistan Today that instead of rejecting the application for its submission after the deadline and issuance of Form 49, the RO notified that he would decide the appeal on July 30.
“The PML-N leader then reached out to ECP where he was told to pursue his case in an election tribunal. Not satisfied with ECP’s advice, Shah then moved LHC against Sonia Ali’s win, which ordered a recount in the constituency.”
“During the recounting process on August 6, only 21 out of total 209 polling stations had been opened when Shah ordered the RO not to continue, for he had taken a lead of 17 votes against Sonia,” they added.
When asked in what capacity could the RO have been “ordered” by an electoral candidate, sources claimed that PP-123 was a part of National Assembly’s 113 constituency where PML-N had fielded Asadur Rehman Ramday, brother of Justice (r) Khalilur Rehman Ramday.
“He is the uncle of former Punjab attorney general Mustafa Ramday, a close aide of PML-N president and ex-Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, besides also being related to the incumbent LHC Chief Justice Yawar Ali,” they said, adding that the RO, on the other hand, was a civil judge.
“The RO has also claimed of facing pressure from certain quarters and expressed helplessness while not being able to do anything in this regard,” sources stated further.
Speaking to Pakistan Today, Sonia Ali’s representative claimed that they had approached the Supreme Court; however, the top court had rejected their application without acknowledging that ordering recount was not in LHC’s jurisdiction.
“It was stated by the chief justice himself while hearing a case pertaining to recounting in Lahore’s NA-131 where PTI’s Imran Khan had won against PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique,” he added.
Meanwhile, Qutub Ali Shah refuted the claims and said that he had appealed for recounting ahead of the commencement of consolidation process.
Speaking to Pakistan Today, Shah said that all he had done was in accordance with the law and it was only his opponents who were trying to raise doubts regarding his victory.
When asked regarding the matter of missing votes in Form 49, that notified his victory, he feigned ignorance and said that it must be an error on the electoral staff’s half.
Repeated attempts were made to contact RO Shehwar Amin Wahga, but he was unavailable.