ISLAMABAD: In arguably the first decision of its kind in the country’s electoral history, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday annulled the election of PML-N’s Sumaira Malik as chairperson of the Khushab district council by a majority vote of three to one.
Interestingly, what formed the basis of the judgement was an allegation that a voter had flaunted his ballot paper at the time of polling.
The ECP bench that heard the case was headed by Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan and comprised Abdul Ghaffar Soomro (from Sindh), retired Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi (Punjab) and retired Justice Shakeel Ahmed Baloch (Balochistan). Retired Justice Qureshi dissented with the majority decision.
“For the reasons to be recorded separately and with a majority of three to one, the petition is accepted. The election dated 22nd December, 2016, for the seat of Chairman/Vice Chairman, District Council Khushab is set aside and it is hereby directed that the re-poll be conducted for which the schedule be issued by the office,” a short order of the ECP said.
The issue of alleged violation of the secrecy of ballot had earlier been taken up by petitioner Ameer Haider Sangha with the returning officer for Khushab, Abdul Hameed Khan Sambhal, who had observed in his order that the matter should have been settled when it had occurred.
“In my opinion, no further action is required,” Mr Sambhal had said, citing the reply of the presiding officer who had declared that the election had been completed without any disturbance.
He had said that objection had been raised against only one voter who he said had been waving his ballot to dry the excessive ink on it before folding it.
On Wednesday, the returning officer and the presiding officer repeated the same statements before the ECP.
Appearing before the bench as counsel for the respondent, Advocate Raja Ibrahim Satti argued that it was for the petitioner to prove factual aspects of the allegation.
He contended that factual aspects of all legal disputes required trials involving recording of evidence. “It is a recognised principle of law subject to no exception that factual aspects of a legal dispute cannot be decided summarily by any legal forum.”
He also questioned the jurisdiction of the ECP to hear the case. He argued that any action of the ECP at this stage would encroach upon exclusive jurisdiction of the election tribunal.
Advocate Sardar Aslam, who was representing the petitioners, argued that sanctity and secrecy of the ballot had not been maintained and alleged that members of the electorate had openly flaunted their ballots and showed them to their opponents.
He requested the ECP to declare the election void and order holding of re-polling.
courtesy : dawn news