ISLAMABAD - Clinging to his seemingly principled stance on the Waheeda Shah’s slap incident, the Election Commission of Pakistan Secretary Ishtiak Ahmed Khan on Friday tendered his resignation over his ‘differences’ with the Chief Election Commissioner.

Coincidentally, the ECP Secretary had applied for Leave Preparatory to Retirement (LPR) the same day (March 2) last year owing to some serious disagreements he had, purportedly, with the CEC Justice (r) Hamid Ali Mirza on a host of election-related issues but his request was turned down.

The Secretary's Friday decision came against the backdrop of the ‘leniency’ the CEC has shown in Waheeda Shah case.

During Sindh Assembly by-polls in Tando Muhammad Khan's constituency PS-53, last Saturday, ruling PPP candidate Shah was caught by TV channels slapping and manhandling two ECP officials, trying to influence the electoral process.

Reportedly, Khan favoured a toughened stance on the issue and proceeded with initiating legal action against the accused. However, the CEC, who is believed to have close association with the ruling elite, intervened in a ‘bid to save’ Waheeda Shah’s skin.

The CEC instructed the Sindh Election Commissioner Sonu Khan Baloch to prepare a ‘soft’ report about the incident, suggesting that the matter was ‘resolved’ through ‘reconciliation’ between Shah and victim Assistant Presiding Officer Shagufta Memon following a joint press conference.

The authenticity of the press briefing is dubious amidst reports that the veiled lady who impersonated herself as Memon was not her and the event was staged on the behest of Shah.

The incident had taken place on Saturday while the report arrived in the ECP on Monday after the ECP Secretary took a strong stand, resulting in the registration of First Information Report (FIR) against Shah.

Sonu Khan Baloch is known for enjoying close association with the CEC and was given third consecutive extension after retirement in June last year.  When contacted, the CEC staff said Justice (r) Mirza did not wish to speak to the media on the issue. It is learnt that the issuance of the ECP press release on Monday that announced initiating action against Shah and holding PF-53 result has not gone down well with the CEC.

Reportedly, the ECP members are supporting the Secretary and want action against Shah. Under the prevailing laws, Shah could face three-month imprisonment for misbehaving with the commission staff. Her conviction, in the light of Pakistani constitutional provisions, would lead to disqualification - something CEC Mirza does not want.

Hinting at his disagreements with the CEC, Khan told journalists on Friday that the ECP had failed to provide security to its personnel, that he termed unfortunate. Avoiding comment on the Shah issue, Khan said that he would send his resignation to the government, which was reportedly sent on Friday afternoon.

Khan, however, confirmed that Shah could face three-month imprisonment if the charges against her were proved. He termed the extension given to him after retirement in November as a "burden" on him that, he said, made him decide to resign.

Contrary to the expectations, sources in the ECP believe, Justice (r) Mirza did not initiate any action against Shah nor did he let the Secretary go by the book despite the lapse of almost a week that prompted the Supreme Court to intervene by taking suo moto notice of the incident.