The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has constituted an inquiry committee to probe into the incidents of theft of ballot papers in NA-240 by-election, raids on various polling stations by Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), breaking of ballot boxes and violence against staff with directions to submit a report in 10 days.
A five-member commission, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, heard cases of theft of ballot papers at polling station No 87 in NA-240 Karachi by-election and vandalism and violence at various polling stations by the PSP.
Landhi Polling Station No 87 Presiding Officer Habib Khan and SSP Faisal Basir Memon appeared before the Election Commission. The ECP special secretary said in a briefing that the presiding officer was accused of stealing ballot papers. “The presiding officer was first arrested and later released.”
SSP Faisal Basir apprised the commission that on the morning of the election, “we were informed that the presiding officer was stealing ballot papers along with the polling agent of a political party”. “There is also CCTV footage of the incident. A political activist was trying to steal the ballot papers but could not succeed.”
The Election Commission directed the special secretary to register a complaint for registration of the case. Presiding Officer Habib submitted a written reply, rejecting the allegations of stealing ballot papers against him as “false”.
“At 10am a man came and asked if there was any hope for stamping. I said it would not be stamped, so he smiled and left. “Shortly afterwards, a large number of political activists arrived at the polling station. I was tortured and barely managed to escape.”
The CEC said that the ECP would not show any leniency towards these persons, asking the SSP to identify the people in the footage. The ECP directed Secretary Umar Hameed Khan to form a special inquiry committee, saying that the committee should inquire into the role of the returning officer, presiding officer as well as DMO and submit a report within 10 days.
The CEC said that there were serious allegations of vandalism and violence against the leader and workers of a political party and footage was also available. PSP chief Mustafa Kamal’s lawyer Hafeezuddin said that his client was not new to politics on which the CEC stopped the lawyer, saying that not to make any political statement.
“For us, national leaders are respected but we will not allow anyone to break the law,” CEC Raja said.
Lawyer Hafeezuddin said that Mustafa did not go to any polling station. “Not a single video of Mustafa Kamal has surfaced.”
Hafeezuddin said, “We do not trust the police … get the investigation done by another agency. This is the style of MQM, we are not involved in any incident.”
He pointed out protests held against MQM and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan in different places. He said that there was more fraud in NA-240 than in Daska by-poll on which the CEC said that if “evidence is given then the action will be more than Daska”.
The special secretary said in the briefing that three FIRs were registered against the unrest in the by-elections. According to polling station No 36 presiding officer, Mustafa entered the polling booth along with women workers.
“Mustafa Kamal and his staff beat up the polling staff.” Later, he said, the PSP workers tortured people outside the polling station and resorted to aerial firing.
The polling station No 51 presiding officer accused the PSP of violence. According to the presiding officer, “three to four hundred workers stormed the polling station.” “The ECP can take action against them under the Code of Conduct and the Election Act.”
The CEC remarked, “If the party chief himself brought a group, what could be his punishment?”
SSP Basir said that the head of a political party along with 400-500 workers attacked different polling stations. “Ballot boxes had been smashed and staff was tortured.”
Later, the SSP said, the head of the political party went to his office in Landhi where he had a quarrel with another political group. Lawyer Hafeezuddin said that 12 to 13 of his client’s workers were injured and one was killed.
“Talk about the attack on our office,” the lawyer demanded. “None of our workers had any weapons.” The CEC said that at present, this case was not before them but they called for a report. The ECP also sought a report from the police on the attack on Mustafa. The hearing was adjourned for 10 days.
Originally published at tribune.com.pk