LAHORE - Accepting PML-N leader Saad Rafiq’s plea, the Lahore High Court yesterday ordered a vote recount in NA-131 and directed the Election Commission to withhold the notification announcing PTI chief Imran Khan winner from the constituency.
It raised questions about the implication of this decision on Imran Khan’s ascent to premiership, as the chairman of Tehreek-e-Insaf is set to take oath as chief executive of the country before August 14.
The Nation put this matter before some renowned jurists and all of them agreed that the court decision won’t become a hurdle in Imran’s way as he has won on four other National Assembly constituencies.
A winner of multiple seats is required to choose one of those and PTI chief would can retain any of the other four seats he has secured, they said.
Former senior judge of the Lahore High Court Ms Fakharun Nisa Khokhar strongly believes that Imran Khan is quite competent to take oath as PM he has to retain only one seat before that exercise.
As to NA-131 seat, she said, the issue is now relevant to the Election Commission of Pakistan that has to undertake recount of vote in that particular constituency on the Court direction.
Former Lahore High Court Bar President Ahmad Awais also subscribed to the same view and said Imran can take oath by retaining any of the seats he has won.
However, he said, after issue of the fifth constituency is resolved and he is retained as winner, he will be obliged to surrender that seat since he would have already retained another constituency by that time.
Former LHC judge and LHCBA President Dr Khalid Ranjha also does not see any bar in Khan’s way, but he says the Election Commission is bound to complete the vote recount and issue notification before the oath taking so that everything could go on smoothly.
Earlier, the Lahore High Court hearing the plea of former Railways minister Khwaja Saad Rafiq stayed the victory notification of the PTI chairman from NA-131. The bench of Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh also ordered the returning officer concerned to carry out complete count of ballot papers polled in that constituency.
Imran was declared winner in NA-131 with 84,313 votes while his rival candidate of PML-N Saad Rafiq secured 83,633, only 780 votes less than Imran. Of the total vote cast, as many as 2,832 were rejected.
Earlier on Saad plea, the returning officer had carried out recounting of the rejected votes only and turned down his request to recount all the ballot papers. In the recount of rejected votes, Saad defeat margin narrowed down to 608 votes from 680.
Khwaja Saad moved the high court challenging dismissal of his application by the RO for complete recounting.
Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar appearing for Saad argued that the RO had violated fundamental rights of the petitioner by refusing to hold recounting of the complete ballots. He said the petitioner’s request for the recounting was very much logical and justifiable since the margin of respondent’s victory was very thin.
Advocate Babar Awan appeared on behalf of Khan and opposed the petition pleading that the consolidation of the result stood completed when the petitioner filed application for the recounting.
The counsel said the process of recounting of rejected votes was completed on the choice of the petitioner. He said when defeat of the petitioner remained intact after the recounting of the rejected votes he immediately filed another application for a complete recounting.
Advocate Awan argued that all the process stood completed and different forums were available to the petitioner during the entire process of the election. He asked the court to dismiss the petition for being not maintainable.
The counsel of the ECP also opposed the petition and argued the consolidation of the result had been completed when the petitioner asked for the recounting.
After hearing arguments from the parties, Justice Sheikh allowed the petition of Mr Rafiq and ordered the RO to hold recounting of the all ballot papers. In the meantime, the judge said, the ECP would not issue the notification of the result of the constituency.