LAHORE - In a severe setback to the ruling PML-N, an election tribunal on Monday annulled general elections results for NA-125 and PP-155 where ruling party candidates had been declared winners.

The seats were won by incumbent Railways Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique and Mian Naseer of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. Undoing their victories, the tribunal ordered re-election in both the constituencies within 60 days.

Tribunal judge Mr Javaid Rashid Mahboobi announced an 80-page reserved verdict confirming rigging in NA-125, where PTI has been claiming a massive electoral fraud.

The judge held that Returning Officers and the staff of the election commission committed negligence in performing their duties. The ROs declared the unverified result the final result, the verdict said.

During the inspection and the process of recounting, the judge observed, the record of a number of polling stations was found missing. He also confirmed that Form 14 and Form 15 were missing from the record while a number of counterfoils did not carry signatures of the polling staff.

The verdict said that the ballot bags had been opened with a sharp object and the records had been tampered with. It added that in the reports submitted by the tribunal’s appointed local commission and Nadra after inspecting the record of the constituency, it was found that on an average each person had cast six votes.

Hamid Khan, runner-up candidate of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf, had challenged the victory of Khwaja Saad Rafique and alleged that the mandate of the people was stolen as thousands of bogus votes were cast in order to help PML-N candidate win the seat.

The judge wrote in his order that petitioner Hamid Khan could not establish rigging in the constituency but the inspection of the record proved rigging in 7 polling stations.

The tribunal also announced penalties for the polling staff for committing negligence in their professional duties and directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to recover all the money paid to the polling staff from them.

Later talking to reporters, Tribunal judge Javed Rashid Mahboobi said though both the petitioners could not establish rigging in their relevant constituencies but gross irregularities and discrepancies had brought the election into doubt on the basis of which the election of both the constituencies were declared null and void.

PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique held a press conference soon after the election tribunal ordered re-election. He said the tribunal examined results of only 15 polling stations of the total 265 wherein it found irregularities allegedly committed by the Presiding Officers or the Returning Officers.

He said the tribunal did not disqualify him from contesting the election which means if any fault was there at all, that was not on his part but the POs or the ROs. But, punishment has been meted out to him and the electorate of NA-125 without any reason.

Saad said whether they should go for fresh polls or challenge the tribunal decision before the Supreme Court would be decided by the PML-N leadership within next two to three days.

He said the Cantonment Board elections in Lahore spoke volumes of the popularity of the N league and showed the same ratio of vote which his party had secured in the general elections from NA-125. He challenged Imran Khan to himself campaign in the said constituency in case he went for fresh election as after crushing defeat in NA-246 Azizabad Karachi, another defeat awaited the PTI in NA-125.

Responding to the allegations levelled by Imran Khan that he (Saad) had been a stranger in the National Assembly for two years, he said in fact PTI was the strangers which first termed the assembly bogus and tendered resignations but later rejoined it.

Khwaja Saad said as a minister he did not receive any salary and asked the PTI to tell the public how much they received as perks and privileges being members of the assembly.

Hamid Khan's lawyer had also contended that Saad Rafique paid one Returning Officers Rs20 million to rig the elections, to which the PML-N leader responded: "I don't want to start a blame-game but Imran Khan tells a lot of lies. So, if Hamid Khan lies once, I shouldn't mind".

Saad Rafique had secured 123,416 votes whereas his contender Hamid Khan had obtained 84,495 votes from NA-125 constituency. Mian Naseer Ahmad had won the PP-155 election with 63,709 votes.

NA-125 was among the four most controversial constituencies where PTI had demanded voters’ thumbprint-verification.

Online adds: PML-N late on Monday announced to move the Supreme Court against the Election Tribunal’s decision.

Federal Minister Khawaja Asif said that the party will go to the Supreme Court and challenge the decision.