Daska RO admits failure in contacting 20 presiding officers

CEC orders PTI to submit evidence of Daska by-election by Wednesday: ECP urged not to let ‘fog conspiracy’ go away

By: News Desk      Published: 01:20 PM, 23 Feb, 2021
Daska RO admits failure in contacting 20 presiding officers

Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja has ordered the ruling PTI to submit all record regarding the Daska by-election by Wednesday and adjourned the hearing of the case until February 25, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is hearing from all sides before deciding on the issue of the suspected tampering of results and the alleged disappearance of 20 presiding officers during the NA-75 Daska by-polls.

The returning officer while recording his statement admitted failure in not establishing contact with 20 presiding officers

The PML-N demanded repolling in the entire constituency citing widespread rigging while asked the ECP to dispose of the Nawaz League’s petition.

The ECP on Tuesday was expected to decide the fate of NA-75 by-election – whether to go for repolling or release the result after the completion of an inquiry.

The ECP had summoned the district monitoring officer (DMO) and Returning Officer (RO). 

During the proceedings on Tuesday, the CEC remarked that there could be complete repolling in the said constituency if the election was not found satisfactory.

“Four out of 20 suspected polling stations (No 9, 47, 50 and 140) results the came same and there was no difference of results,” the Returning Officer of NA-75 maintained his stance while giving his statement. 

The RO said 337 polling stations results were received at 3:37 am and they were the same as they were received on WhatsApp while few Presiding Officers (POs) results were received at 6am or 7 am in the morning. “Only 20 polling stations results were not received at the time and there was no contact with the POs as well.”

“Other than only one PO, no presiding officer’s phone was reachable. All these 20 polling stations were in range of 30 to 40kms from the DMO office,” he said.  

The lawyers of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate Ali Asjad Malhi and PML-N sought one-week time to submit evidence. The Chief Election Commissioner remarked “If the election was right then the result will be released and if not there could be a re-poll in NA-75.” 

“How much time will you need to hand in the evidence,” asked the CEC, to which the PTI lawyer replied, “Give me a week’s time as I wanted to submit verified results with evidence.”

Election Commission Member from Punjab Altaf Qureshi remarked, “The weather is not bad now and you can submit the evidence in a day.”

Altaf Qureshi asked the Returning Officer (RO) were the police officers watching the charged crowds as it was the job of the administration to provide security.

“The returning officer, it seems like, you are not shedding light on everything. What action was taken against the people who shot fires on motorbikes,” Altaf Qureshi said. 

On this, the RO replied, “I asked the police to file an FIR against those who opened fire and issued directives to police and Rangers as well.”

When asked whether the people were behind the bars or not, the Returning Officer (RO) nodded in negative and said police could not identify them.

CEC Member KP remarked, “Submitting the evidence delay will only hurt you.”

While, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Saad Rafique talking to media persons outside the Election Commission office in Islamabad said, “The Constitution of Pakistan was challenged in Daska as violence erupted in the constituency.

“PTI has rigged pre-plan and there should be re-election in NA-75,” Saad Rafique alleged and demanded from the ECP. 

“Did the ECP check the location of the 20 presiding officers from the mobile companies,” asked the Election Commission Member from Punjab, adding that, he said this can be checked even now.

Chief Election Commission Sultan Raja questioned the NA-75 Returning-Officer what happened with him at that time and he was very nervous on the phone. 

The RO replied, “There was a large crowd outside may office. I feared some trouble.”

PML-N lawyer Salman Akram Raja asked him if he became RO for the first time, to which he replied he became RO for the third time.

The NA-75 Returning Officer said the polling process was resumed at the concerned polling stations within 30 minutes after the firing incident.

When asked did he question the presiding officers (POs) who arrived late, the RO maintained the position that he had questioned the presiding officers of all 20 polling stations and in response some said their vehicles were broken while others blamed the weather. 

The ECP Member Punjab asked the RO whether he got any report from the Met Department about the fog, the RO did not give any answer. While he said, “When the presiding officers were called again, some did not come to record their statements.”

Syed Nosheen Ifthkikhar, who is the daughter of late Sahibzada Syed Iftikhar-ul-Hassan Shah (Pir Zaray Shah) and PML-N candidate for recently held NA-75 by-election, speaking during the hearing said, “This is the war of NA-75 people, not of PML-N. I was harassed. My brother was even arrested.” 

“DSP Daska Ehsan threatened me of dire consequences for speaking anything. My chadar was even removed,” the PML-N candidate claimed. 

PML-N lawyer Salman Akram Raja claimed people opened fires in the presence of PTI candidates and complete “operation” was conducted after the presiding officers were removed from the scene. He questioned how it was possible that all POs reached the returning officer’s office at the same time. 

“We will not let the fog conspiracy go away,” Salman Akram Raja pleaded before the Chief Election Commissioner and demanded re-election instead of repolling on 16 polling stations. He believed repolling on 15 polling stations was like ‘eye-washing’ on the NA-75 contest.