Govt claims victory in NA-75 even as ECP stops results suspecting ‘falsification’

NA-75 fell vacant after the demise of PML-N MP Sahibazada Syed Iftikharul Hassan Shah in August

ISLAMABAD: While the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) stopped the results of a by-election to a National Assembly seat in a Sialkot constituency after it suspected that results of some polling stations had been compromised, the government on Saturday prematurely declared victory.

In Twitter statements, federal ministers Asad Umar, Shibli Faraz and Fawad Chaudhry congratulated Ali Asjad Malhi for securing NA-75 (Sialkot-IV), a seat in Daska Tehsil of the city which fell vacant after the demise of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MP Sahibazada Syed Iftikharul Hassan Shah in August.

“Results […] suggest we have won the election by over 7000 votes. An election we had lost by over 30000 in the last election,” Faraz said.

Umar criticised the opposition parties who he said accepted the results only when they win [the election] and reject them when they lose.

“The Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) manifesto seems to be that only those results will be accepted where they are successful. Where they lose, they will start crying foul,” he said.

Chaudhry congratulated Malhi on “conquering the Daska battle” and demanded the ECP to announce the result “immediately”.

On Friday, the electoral contest for the seat turned violent, leaving two people killed and three injured.

In a statement, the election commission said it received the results of the constituency with “unnecessary delay”. It said it had tried to contact the presiding officers (POs) several times to ascertain the situation but achieved no success.

“The chief election commissioner tried to contact the Punjab inspector general of police, commissioner and deputy commissioner on receiving information from the district returning officer (DRO) and returning officer (RO) so the whereabouts of the presiding officers concerned could be ascertained but received no response,” read a statement issued by ECP.

Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja also contacted Punjab Chief Secretary Jawad Rafique Malik who assured him that the results would be sent after tracing the “missing” officers and polling bags. But soon after, Malik too made himself “unavailable”, the statement said.

The presiding officers appeared along with the polling bags around six in the morning, the statement said.

“The DRO and RO of the NA-75 (Sialkot) constituency informed [the ECP] that there is a suspicion of falsification in the results from 20 polling stations.

Therefore, it is not possible to release the initial results without a complete inquiry. The DRO is sending a complete report on the matter to the Election Commission.”

The statement said the ECP had stopped the DRO and RO from announcing the initial results for the by-election, directing them to conduct a complete inquiry and identify those responsible for the delay.

It also directed the provincial and joint provincial election commissioners to reach the office of the DRO and RO so that “[the ECP] can reach the bottom of the matter and records can be completely protected”.

“This matter looks like a weakness of the administration and law enforcement agencies.”

‘PML-N GENERATING VIOLENCE TO WIN ELELCTION’:

Meanwhile, Special Assistant to Prime Minister of Pakistan on Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill on Twitter claimed the PML-N was behind the death of one of the PTI workers.

“According to reports, PML-N goon Javed Butt Bay shot dead PTI activist Majid and seriously injured Sajid. The PML-N is a party of thugs like Glue Butt and Javed Butt,” he tweeted.

“These are criminals. Politics is just a cloak – every drop of blood will be counted,” he said on the popular micro-blogging site.”

Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar also took notice of the incident and ordered the Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Inam Ghani to submit a report of the incident, and has also ordered the immediate arrest of the perpetrators, stating that no violation of the law shall be allowed.

The government will take indiscriminate action against those found guilty, he had added.

In this regard, he directed the regional police officer (RPO) to arrest the suspects immediately and initiate legal action against them.

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