The poll inquiry commission has asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to come up with its stand positively by Tuesday on its perceived reluctance to make available ‘Form 15’ of different polling stations used in the 2013 general elections.
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The Form 15 is a document maintained by returning officers (ROs) and accounts for the ballot papers used, discarded or remained unused out of the total papers supplied.
Senior counsel Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, representing the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), raised the matter again before a three-judge Judicial Commission headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk on Monday and said the required documents had not been provided by the ECP. The counsel said the documents had become important because an increase was noticed in printing of extra ballot papers from four to 12 per cent and during cross-examinations Punjab’s former election commissioner Mehboob Anwar had admitted that extra ballot papers had been retained by the ROs. Section 44 of the Representation of People’s Act 1976 requires an RO to retain extra ballot papers and return them to the ECP after the elections. “I want to see the ECP taking a position instead of changing it all the time,” Mr Pirzada said. ECP’s counsel Salman Akram Raja, who was supposed to submit a reply on the matter by Saturday, said the commission was in the process of collecting Form 15 and had asked ROs to provide these and the same would be produced. He explained that Form 15 was retrievable from ROs after the end of polling after which it went into the election bag and then into the custody of the treasury under a notification issued by the ECP.
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But, the counsel said 99 per cent of Form 14 (vote count), 16 (consolidation of votes) and 17 (notification) was available and these were equally vital for corroboration of election results. The chief justice advised Mr Pirzada to wait for ECP’s reply for which it was seeking time and assured the PTI counsel that in the case of non-availability of Form 15, the ECP would have to face consequences. Later, ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Malik was cross-examined by Mr Pirzada, PML-N’s counsel Shahid Hamid and Shah Khawar of the Balochistan National Party (Awami). Mr Malik, who was chief secretary of Balochistan during the 2013 elections, said he used to interact with the chief election commissioner as well as the then home secretary in view of the peculiar law and order situation in the province. As chief secretary, he said, was involved in the process of delivery of ballot papers and election material received from the printing press. In some cases, the ballots were delivered by helicopters under security of the armed forces because of the bad law and order situation in areas like Panjgoor, Turbat, Kharan, Awaran, Khuzdar and Qalat.
But he was not certain whether or not the ROs were present to receive the election material. Mr Malik said he could not correctly recall, but the voters turnout was around 42pc, compared to 31pc in the 2008 elections. This was because many political parties like PkMAP, BNP Mengal, NP, some nationalist parties and even Aali Bugti, a grandson of Nawab Akbar Bugti, who had boycotted the 2008 polls, took part in the 2013 elections, he added. He said the Frontier Constabulary Balochistan functioned under the federal interior ministry and not the provincial government. He admitted that he had attended a seminar against corruption in Balochistan after which some provincial ministers, along with then chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani, had walked out of the cabinet meeting. Later, Mr Malik said, the chief minister himself had come to his house and apologised for the behaviour.
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He said he had received the then prime minister who visited Quetta to offer condolence over the death of more than 100 people of the Hazara community killed in a bomb blast, but it was beyond his prerogative to suggest to the prime minister to proclaim governor’s rule in the province. Mr Malik said he had applied for a four-month leave but was called by the then caretaker chief minister Nawab Ghous Bakhsh Barozai only four days later. The caretaker chief minister had not formed any cabinet, he added. He conceded that Badal Dasti, the then RO of PB-48 and also an assistant commissioner, had been removed just after the 2013 elections on the recommendations of the then Balochistan election commissioner and the DRO concerned. Mr Malik said that as chief secretary he had appeared before former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry 50 or 60 times and was praised for his handling of the law and order situation in the province. He recalled that the PTI had fielded some candidates in the 2013 elections for National Assembly seats from Balochistan, but none of them won.