ISLAMABAD - Former Punjab Provincial Election Commission (PEC) Anwar Mehboob on Thursday admitted sending additional ballot papers to polling stations during the 2013 general election.
He recorded his statement before the three-judge inquiry commission, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Nasirul Mulk, which is probing the allegations of rigging in the general election.
Mehboob Anwar told the commission on oath that extra ballot papers were printed in several constituencies of the province on the request of Returning Officers (ROs).
“I do not know the number of constituencies but in several constituencies ballot papers were printed beyond 100 percent (the required number) on the request of ROs,” said Mehboob Anwar on the question of PTI counsel Abdul Hafiz Pirzada, who cross examined him.
Mehboob acted as PEC Punjab from December 2011 to December 2014. He informed the commission that during the general elections he worked under the supervision of the Chief Election Commissioner, and complied with his written orders. He, however, told that he did not seek prior permission regarding printing of extra ballot papers , but intimated the Election Commission of Pakistan later in writing.
“Do you remember an RO had made a request for 15,000 ballot papers in excess of the registered voters in NA-154 (Lodhran)”, asked Pirzada.
Mehboob replied in the negative.
On the query of the PTI counsel, he also denied his direct connection with any member of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). However, the PEC stated that he met with ECP Punjab Member Riaz Kayani for one time on March 26, 2013 in the office of the Provincial Election Commission, adding that the meeting was formal.
“Have you seen the reply submitted by the ECP before the inquiry commission or any official discussed it with you?” Pirzada asked. He replied that neither he has seen the reply for himself nor has anyone discussed it with him.
Mehboob said that the ballot papers are published on the basis of Form-5. He stated that ROs decide the number of ballot papers which are required by each constituency and they made their request in writing. He also confirmed that printing was started on the 19th of April, 2013.
He said that generally the polling material arrives at the polling stations around three days prior to the election but during the 2013 general elections, polling material was not even complete by May 5. “The delivery of printing material to ROs was not done till May 5, 2013 (the scheduled last date)” but he was unaware regarding the delay in printing process, he said.
The former PEC admitted that ballot papers should be sent to ROs three days before the polling date, adding that it is correct that “we did not complete the delivery process of ballot papers on time”. He however told that no one sought explanation from him regarding the delay in the delivery of ballot papers .
“Are you aware that the agencies involved in printing process had demanded double quantity of paper due to the increase of number of contesting candidates?” asked the PTI counsel. He replied he does not know about it.
The PTI lawyer asked several questions regarding various issues including purchase of additional papers but Anwar Mehboob said that he had no information regarding it.
The PTI counsel then told the commission that he required two more hours to complete cross examination of the Provincial Election Commissioner. The commission adjourned the hearing by today (Friday), asking all the political parties to submit by Monday the list of witnesses, if any, telling the reasons for summoning.
Appearing before the commission on Wednesday, former chief and additional chief secretaries to ex-caretaker government of Punjab had said that 200 persons were recruited from Urdu Bazaar on the request of the Provincial Election Commissioner of Punjab just two days before the general elections.
Former Punjab Chief Secretary Javed Iqbal on oath said that additional secretary Rao Iftikhar was liaison officer for contact with the Provincial Election Commissioner. He acknowledged that two or three days after May 9, 2013, Mr Rao had conveyed to him that he (Rao) had received call from the Provincial Chief Election Commissioner Anwar Mehboob for the provision of 200 persons from Urdu Bazar.
Former Additional Secretary Rao Iftikhar also admitted the fact, and stated he had asked the Lahore and Rawalpindi commissioners to comply with the ECP’s request and this was done on the same day with the permission of the chief secretary.