ISLAMABAD - Allegedly colluding with a powerful bloc in the Election Commission of Pakistan, the government elites have mounted pressure for “reconciliation” with the apparent victims of Waheeda Shah slapping incident in an alleged bid to save the ruling party candidate’s skin and weaken the Secretary ECP stance on the issue.

The Presiding Officer for PF-53 Habiba Memon on Saturday announced “forgiveness” for the accused Waheeda Shah, the returned candidate for Sindh Assembly’s constituency in Tando Muhammad Khan. Shah had repeatedly slapped Habiba Memon and the Assistant Presiding Officer Shagufta Memon while by-polls were under way in her constituency last week.

The Secretary Election Commission Ishtiak Ahmed Khan has tendered resignation on account of his reported differences over the issue and a host of other electoral matters with the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (Retd) Hamid Ali Mirza. While Khan wants strict action against the accused, the CEC is allegedly out to bail Waheeda Shah using “soft” official correspondence through the preparation of subsequent reports by Sindh’s Election Commission led by the Provincial Election Commissioner Sonu Khan Baloch. Justice (Retd) Mirza is believed to have close association with President Asif Ali Zardari while Sonu Khan Baloch happens to be a close friend of the CEC. Habiba Memon’s “forgiveness” for Shah, just a day after the Secretary ECP sent his resignation to the Prime Minister on Friday, allegedly aims at weakening Khan’s stance in the wake of the criticism the CEC Justice (Retd) Mirza and Sindh’s PEC Baloch face in the aftermath of the incident.

When contacted by TheNation, Habiba Memon denied the reports that she succumbed to political and official pressures and announced “forgiveness” for Waheeda Shah thereafter. “Waheeda ‘aapa’ visited my place along with her husband and children and offered unconditional apology. That really ‘melted’ my heart. I’m a human being and human beings should forgive mistakes,” an audibly “philosophical” Memon said.

Asked why the “melting” of her heart to spare Shah conspicuously came just a day after Secretary ECP had tendered resignation, Memon said, “I’m nobody to comment on the Secretary Sahib’s decision. I’m sure he did what he deemed appropriate as per his learned wisdom and that has nothing to do with me.”

Last week, someone allegedly impersonating as the Assistant Presiding Officer Shagufta Memon had conducted a joint press conference with Waheeda Shah to announce that she had reconciled with Waheeda ‘aapa.’ The authenticity of the press conference remains dubious since Shagufta Memon was not wearing a veil when the slapping incident occurred while the lady who addressed the media was veiled and her voice reportedly sounded different. Memon’s brother Akhtar had said then, her sister had gone to Hyderabad for medical treatment when the press briefing was underway that also supported the reports that the event was faked.

When contacted, Waheeda Shah, the accused said, “We should not cast aspersions over everything that happens in good faith. Now that Habiba has forgiven me, why media has issues with it. We should avoid baseless speculations. The matter is resolved.”

When reminded that the Supreme Court had rejected her apology and still a powerful lobby in ECP was allegedly favouring Shah that prompted Ishtiak Ahmed Khan to resign, Shah “pleaded” to this scribe on an audibly bitter note, “For God’s sake, spare me! You people need crispy stuff to make headlines. Now that Habiba has forgiven me and Shagufta already forgave me, I’m sure the honourable Court would evict me of all the charges.”

Shagufta Memon refused to speak on the issue, when approached. The CEC Justice (Retd) Hamid Ali Mirza was tried to be approached on Friday but his office said the CEC did not wish to speak to media on the slapping incident.

Ishtiak Ahmed Khan was tried to be contacted at his residential landline number. One of his family members said that he was not feeling well and taking rest. The Secretary’s cell number was inaccessible.

Even if both the alleged victims “forgive” Waheeda Shah, the ECP sources believe, this cannot absolve her of the charges she faces for allegedly trying to interfere in official matters and influence the electoral process. Shah’s summary trial started in the Sindh’s Election Commission yesterday (Saturday). Shah may face three-month imprisonment if charges against her are proved while her conviction, in the light of article 63 of Pakistan’s Constitution, calls for disqualification.