Imran’s vote recount offer a ‘political statement’, CJP says

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  • Chief Justice Nisar says high court acted beyond its mandate by ordering suspension of PTI chief’s notification as MNA-elect from NA-131
  • Tells Saad Rafique to approach election tribunal as Imran’s vote recount offer was merely a ‘political statement’
  • Courts reject Usman Dar, Jamshed Dasti’s pleas pertaining to vote recount

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar has termed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s vote recount offer a ‘political statement’, as the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday quashed the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) order to the election watchdog to withhold Imran’s victory notification until a recount of ballots in Lahore’s NA-131, providing another relief to the PTI chief.

During a hearing of the case by a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, the court criticised the LHC for “acting beyond its mandate” as result of NA-131 had already been declared and the winning candidate had been notified.

“The matter comes under the domain of the ECP, not the LHC,” the bench remarked while hearing a petition filed by prime minister-in-waiting Imran Khan which was filed on Aug 6, in response to the high court order.

However, the lawyer for former minister and Imran’s main rival in NA-131, Saad Rafique argued before the court that the PTI chief had won the July 25 election from five constituencies and that the prime minister-in-waiting in his victory speech had promised to open constituencies where rigging had allegedly taken place.

But the CJP brushed off this argument, saying, “These are merely political statements.”

The court then directed Rafique’s counsel to approach the relevant election tribunal with his complaint and request for a recount.

Moreover, CJP Nisar remarked that the top court had suspended a similar order of the high court on Tuesday while hearing a petition regarding election in NA-140.

After Imran emerged as the winner in the general elections, the former railways minister requested the Returning Officer (RO) for a recount. His plea, however, was dismissed.

Rafique then approached the ECP – which accepted the application but only allowed scrutiny of rejected votes. Imran remained the remained the winning candidate and the PML-N leader’s effort could not bear fruit, leading him to file a petition in the high court.

The PML-N leader then filed a petition challenging the RO’s order to dismiss the recount plea of votes of the whole constituency. On August 4, Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh of the LHC sustained Rafique’s plea.

However, the prime minister-in-waiting challenged the decision in the Supreme Court by terming Rafique’s petition inadmissible and stating that the high court’s order was in contradiction with law and the Constitution and hence must be declared null and void.

Speaking to the media outside SC on Wednesday, Imran’s counsel Babar Awan said the party had received notification of wins at two out of five constituencies while three were subject to a condition due to court cases. “Out of the three, SC heard and decided to suspend LHC decision hence the constituency result was restored.”

Awan claimed there was no deliberate violation in NA-53 (Islamabad II) and expressed confidence that NA-95 (Mianwali I), NA-35 (Bannu) and NA-243 (Karachi East II) constituencies will also be decided soon. “There are only notices of violations. Imran has stated in the application that he believes in supremacy of institutions and will adhere to rules and regulations.”

‘CORRUPTION IN ELECTORAL SYSTEM’:

Following the verdict, Saad Rafique criticised the decision, saying the top court’s decision to suspend recounting points to “corruption in the electoral system”.

“Imran lost 117 votes during the recounting as 2,835 votes were rejected and votes received from five polling stations were reconsidered. Hence, Imran came running to the SC to stop the recounting which reveals the reality of his bogus victory,” he claimed.

Meanwhile, PML-N’s Marriyum Aurangzeb has asserted that the apex court’s decision was in violation of Elections Act, 2017. “The law bounds RO to recount votes which have over 5 per cent or less than 10, 000 difference,” she told media.

Lamenting that the party was deprived of legal rights, Marriyum claimed the recount had already begun in polling stations across the constituency upon LHC directives and witnessed Imran’s lead to drop from 640 to 602. “Initial recounting decreased Imran’s win by 29 votes at five polling stations,” she said.

NO VOTE RECOUNT FOR DASTI:

Separately, the apex court also rejected Awami Raj Party (ARP) Chairman Jamshed Dasti’s request for a vote recount in NA-182 Muzaffargarh.

Rejecting the request for a recount, the chief justice instructed Dasti to approach the concerned election tribunal for the recount.

LHC REJECTS DAR’S RECOUNT PLEA:

On the other hand, the LHC upheld the victory of PML-N stalwart Khawaja Asif in NA-73, Sialkot, as it rejected PTI leader Usman Dar’s plea seeking vote recount in the constituency.

On Monday, the court restrained the ECP from issuing the notification following Dar’s plea.

Dar, in his petition submitted through Advocate Anees Hashmi and Advocate Tajamul Gondal, had challenged the victory of Asif pleading that the returning officer did not provide Form-45 to the polling agents.

The PTI leader maintained that as many as 7,346 votes were dismissed in his constituency and he lost to the PML-N leader by a margin of 1,406 votes.

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