–Earlier recount on LHC’s orders had secured PML-N candidate lead against PTI’s Sonia Ali
LAHORE: The Supreme Court (SC) has directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for a recount of votes in PP-123 constituency of Toba Tek Singh-IV on a petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) runner-up Sonia Ali, who had challenged the victory notification of rival Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Pir Qutab Ali Shah alias Ali Baba.
Two weeks after the July 25 polls, the Returning Officer (RO) concerned, on the orders of the Lahore High Court (LHC), had de-notified Sonia’s win and issued a new Form 49 – the final consolidated result – according to which, Qutab had bagged the Punjab Assembly seat in recount by a margin of 17 votes.
Sonia had approached the Supreme Court; however, the top court on August 10 had rejected her application without acknowledging that ordering recount was not in LHC’s jurisdiction.
On Wednesday, a three-member bench of SC, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Faisal Arab as well as Justice Ijazul Ahsan, heard Sonia’s review petition wherein the court was apprised that during the recounting process on August 6, only 21 out of total 209 polling stations had been opened after Qutab asked the RO to not continue for he had secured the lead.
Expressing concern, the bench ordered the RO concerned for a recount in the constituency, over which Qutab’s counsel objected that a recount had already been held. To this, Justice Nisar said that not all polling stations had been included earlier and ordered a recount of the votes balloted in all 209 polling stations of the constituency within three weeks.
He also directed the RO to submit a report to the ECP in this regard.
Speaking to Pakistan Today, Sonia’s representative said that they were hopeful of their victory and satisfied with the court’s ruling. “We are hopeful that justice will prevail and people will be returned their mandate,” he added.
Qutab, who is also the nephew of former premier and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, on the other hand, said that he too had no issues with a recount being held.
“I am a notified member of the parliament and am glad that a recount of the remaining constituencies has been ordered because it will only further increase my lead,” he said and added that it was actually his plea for a recount in the LHC over which the apex court had passed the orders.
He alleged that his opponents did not want a recount and had moved the SC against LHC’s decision.
In August 2018, a rather interesting case of alleged rigging had surfaced in PP-123, where two Form 49 were issued by the RO with no track of as many as 237 votes. PML-N candidate Pir Qutab Ali Shah had bagged the Punjab Assembly seat against PTI’s Sonia Ali after recounting, barely managing a lead of 17 votes.
Following the orders of LHC on a petition filed by Qutab, the RO of PP-123, Shehwar Amin Wahga, had issued Form 49 for the constituency which tabulated consolidated results including postal ballots.
Sources had told Pakistan Today 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 was the same in both the forms issued on July 28 and August 9.
They had 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. Qutab’s appeal; however, was filed on July 28, which was a violation of Section 95 of the Elections Act, 2017.
Qutub had refuted the claims and said that he had appealed for recounting ahead of the commencement of the consolidation process.
Speaking to Pakistan Today, Qutab had further 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.