- Election tribunal orders re-election in NA-154, de-seats PML-N’s Siddique Baloch, also bars him from taking part in future elections for life due to his fake degree
- Relishing his victory, Jehangir Tareen says will make ECP answerable, not wait for verdict of fourth constituency as hat-trick completed
- Announcing celebrations in Lahore on Saturday, PTI’s Qureshi believes it’s time for ECP members to resign as they have lost trust
The Punjab election tribunal on Wednesday broke its silence after August 20’s adjournment and de-seated Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Muhammad Siddique Khan Baloch from Lodhran’s NA-154 position, accepting Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Jehangir Tareen’s petition for re-election in the constituency.
The Multan tribunal’s gavel tolled the PTI’s celebratory bells which were already tolling following the recent de-seating of National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique from NA-122 and NA-125 positions, respectively.
PTI supporters, gathered outside the election commission tribunal in Multan, erupted in celebrations after the verdict was announced.
Moreover, the election tribunal has disqualified and banned Siddique Baloch from taking part in elections for life due to his fake degree. An independent candidate, Baloch, who later joined PML-N, was declared successful by ECP in this constituency in 2013. He still insists his degree is genuine.
TAREEN TAKES A BOW:
Speaking about the verdict which turned out in his favour, Tareen told a press conference that the verdict has proved that he should have been in the National Assembly. He congratulated party chairman Imran Khan “as it is his efforts that had resulted in the fall of PML-N’s third wicket”.
“I demand that the four provincial election commissioners step down from their posts after the third announcement of the tribunal regarding the rigging charges in the four constituencies highlighted by Imran Khan,” he said.
“What will stop the ECP officials from performing the same way in the upcoming by-polls and local government elections? As long as these officials are not held accountable, democracy cannot flourish in Pakistan.”
Referring to ECP’s assertion that it was not answerable to PTI, Tareen said that the commission is answerable to the citizens of Pakistan and the political parties are the representatives of the citizens.
“We will make the ECP answerable to us. We will not wait for the verdict of the fourth constituency as the hat-trick has been completed and will continue our protests against the Election Commission of Pakistan as per our democratic right,” he said.
QURESHI POINTS AT THE DOOR:
Speaking on the occasion, PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that before gearing up for by-polls, PTI wanted the ECP members to resign.
Announcing PTI’s plans to hold celebrations in Lahore on Saturday, Qureshi said that the disqualification of Baloch in NA-154 rigging case has put a big question mark on members of ECP.
Major political parties, including the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), have expressed reservations over the integrity of ECP members, said Qureshi.
“We hereby request that, in order to uphold the integrity of the institution and working in the better interest of nation, the ECP members should step down,” suggested the PTI leader.
Responding to a question that whether the PTI will take to the streets to demand resignations from ECP members, Qureshi said, “We can only suggest and request, we can’t order or force them.”
“PTI thinks that ECP, as an institution, should be trusted by all political parties and if due to any reason this trust is lost then its ethical of the ECP members to resign to uphold and strengthen democracy,” said Qureshi.
NA-154 is among the four constituencies where PTI Chairman Imran Khan has been demanding a recount and verification of the thumb impressions.
The Lodhran result was challenged by Jehangir Tareen through an election petition filed under Section 52 of the Act, claiming that Baloch possessed fake secondary education, intermediate and undergraduate degrees and he committed illegal practices on polling day.
The tribunal on May 21, 2014, had directed National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to carry out thumb verification on the request of Tareen but Baloch got a stay order from the Lahore High Court on May 26.
Tareen moved the Supreme Court through his counsel Abdul Hafeez Pirzada against the LHC decision.
The apex court on June 6, 2014, vacated the LHC stay order and directed the tribunal to hold proceedings on a daily basis for the verification of thumb impressions.
In its report submitted to the tribunal, NADRA revealed that it failed to authenticate the thumb impressions of 179 voters in NA-154.
According to the report, 218,056 votes cast at 290 polling stations were received by NADRA from the election tribunal for verification, out of which 20,601 were polled with invalid CNICs or without identity cards.
Similarly, 121 voters were found to be out of constituency, while there were 728 duplicate votes and 587 were without thumb impressions, the report said, adding that 73,707 votes had authenticated fingerprints while thumb impressions on 179 votes could not be verified.
NADRA could not decipher 122,133 votes that were having fingerprints of bad quality due to unavailability of proposed (magnetic) ink, besides other possibilities. However, CNIC numbers mentioned on counterfoils of these votes having bad thumb impressions were valid.