LAHORE: An election tribunal on Monday ordered re-election on Lahore’s NA-125 constituency, a seat previously secured by Khawaja Saad Rafique of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the May 2013 general election.
Hamid Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf had challenged the victory of the PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique, claiming that the election had been rigged.
Saad Rafique had bagged 123,416 votes from the constituency beating PTI’s Hamid Khan who secured 84,495 thousand votes.
Reading out a short verdict today in favour of the PTI candidate, Faisalabad Election tribunal judge Javaid Rashid Mehboobi declared null and void the results of the 2013 general elections on NA-125 and ordered a reelection.
“Election tribunal Faisalabad headed by Mr. Javaid Rashid Mehboobi, today has accepted the Election Petition filed by Mr Hamid Khan against Khawaja Saad Rafique etc. from NA-125-Lahore-VII. The Tribunal has ordered for conduct of re-polls in the Constituency,” said a copy of the tribunal’s verdict.
The tribunal judge also ordered re-poll on the Punjab Assembly’s PP-155 constituency.
“Election Tribunal Faisalabad today has also accepted the Election Petition filed by Hafiz Farhat Abbas against Mian Naseer Ahmed etc. from PP-155-Lahore-XIX. The Tribunal has ordered for conduct of re-polls in the Constituency,” it said.
‘Missing signature, thumb impressions on Form-XIV’
The tribunal issued its detailed 80-page judgment shortly after it announced the short verdict in court.
Speaking to Geo News correspondent Amin Hafeez, tribunal judge Javaid Rashid Mehboobi said that, more than half the polling stations in NA-125, the Form-XIV (Statement of the Count) carried neither the presiding officer’s signature nor thumb impression.
He said that the Returning Officer had made the final results based on unverified results from polling stations.
The judge said that the petitioner, Hamid Khan, only presented witnesses from only seven out of 265 total polling stations in NA-125.
Judge Rashid Mehboobi said that a re-poll would not have been ordered had the Returning Officer opened ballot bags himself and not drafted the final result based on the dubious Form-XIV from presiding officer.
‘Victory for PTI’
Speaking to reporters after the verdict, the lawyer for Hamid Khan said that the tribunal’s verdict was a victory for the PTI, which has long been campaigning against alleged rigging in the 2013 general elections.
“The verdict has proved our stance that systematic rigging took place with the help of returning officers,” he said.
The lawyers also alleged that returning officer in the constituency, Khalid Bhatti – who is a serving additional districts and sessions judge – had received almost Rs 20 million for rigging the result in favour of Khawaja Saad Rafique.
Tribunal did not rule poll was rigged: Saad Rafique
Speaking to reporters after the judgment, Khawaja Saad Rafique claimed that his party will decide whether they challenge the tribunal’s verdict in the Supreme Court or contest the re-election as ordered by the tribunal judge.
Rafique claimed that the tribunal’s verdict had fundamentally found negligence on the part of the presiding and returning officers, and had accepted that the PTI was unable to prove any rigging in the constituency.
“Today, the verdict has basically found the presiding officer and returning officer’s negligence. The judge has said that Hamid Khan has failed to prove rigging, which is why no punishment or disqualification has been ordered against me,” he said.
Rafique further said that although the tribunal had not ordered his disqualification, its decision was a punishment for 123,000 voters who had cast their ballots in his favour.
Rafique said that he was ready to contest elections again.
“I am a fighter. I have done street politics in this city. But my party will decide whether we contest re-elections or challenge the decision in the Supreme Court,” he said.
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