ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday declared by-polls held in the NA-75 Sialkot-IV constituency null and void, and issued an order for re-polling in the entire constituency on March 18.
Furthermore, according to a press release by the Commission, the Punjab Chief Secretary and Inspector General of Police have been summoned on March 4 over “negligence in their duties” during the February 19 by-elections.
The Commission has decided to remove Commissioner Gujranwala Division and the Regional Police Officer Gujranwala Range from their posts. They will be transferred out of the Gujranwala division.
Orders have also been issued to the Establishment Division for the Deputy Commissioner Sialkot and the District Police Officer Sialkot and Assistant Commissioner Daska to be suspended.
Additionally, the federal and Punjab governments have been ordered to suspend and never deploy for election duty Deputy Commissioner Sialkot Zeeshan Javed Lashari, District Police Officer Sialkot Hasan Asad Alvi, Assistant Commissioner Daska Asif Hussain, Deputy Superintendent of Police Sumbrial Zulfiqar Virk and Deputy Superintendent of Police Daska Muhammad Ramzan Kambo.
“The Election Commission will conduct an inquiry against all these officers or will ask the federal or provincial government to conduct an investigation against them, a matter which will be decided later,” the statement concluded by saying.
According to The News Editor Investigations Ansar Abbasi, the “missing” presiding officers will also face a trial, which may lead to a three-year imprisonment.
ECP witholds results
The PML-N had requested the Election Commission to hold polling again in the Daska constituency as the February 19 election was marred by controversies and clashes.
The ECP had withheld the results after 20 presiding officers in the constituency went missing for several hours and top officials of the district administration were unavailable to the commission to answer its queries.
‘Conducive environment was not available’
In the short order released today declaring the election void, Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja said after the arguments heard and record perused, the ECP has come to the conclusion that “the election in the subject constituency has not been conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in a transparent manner”.
“From the perusal of available record produced by the parties, the Returning Officer, as well as collected by the Commission through different sources, we have come to the conclusion that a conducive environment was not available for the candidates and voters of the constituency and the election in the subject constituency has not been conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in a transparent manner,” it read.
“Incidents of murders, firing and injuries, bad law and order situation in the subject constituency [created] harassment for voters and other circumstances leading to make the process of results doubtful/unascertainable,” the ECP order noted.
The order added: “This commission in the exercise of powers under Article 218(3) of the Constitution read with section 9(1) of the Elections Act, 2017, declares the poll held on 19.02.21 in the subject constituency (NA-78, Sialkot-IV) as void and orders fresh poll/re-poll in the entire constituency on 18th March 2021.”
The PML-N hailed the decision and said the ECP order would be remembered in history.
Senior PML-N leader Mohammad Zubair said that a conspiracy had been hatched to rig the elections which was exposed, and added, “The ECP was surprised on the rigging tactics employed.”
He accused PM Imran Khan of being involved in the conspiracy to rig the election.
PML-N candidate Nausheen Iftikhar thanked the Almighty, referring to the ECP verdict as a “historic” one. She said she will continue to confront “vote thieves”.
‘Legal team to decide’
Meanwhile, the PTI said that their legal team would review the detailed order and decide the future course of action accordingly.
Speaking to media outside the ECP office, Minister for Information Shibli Faraz said the PTI accepts the order.
He accused the PML-N for doing “politics of money and fraud”.
“PTI wants to keep the institutions independent. Our legal team would review the order and make recommendations to the party,” he said.
Senior PTI leader Usman Dar said the PML-N wanted re-polling in 20 constituencies but then they demanded re-polling in the whole constituency.