ISLAMABAD - A top electoral official has announced issuing a detailed response to a mainstream opposition party, which slams the poll authority for its alleged failure to stop what the party terms as general polls rigging.

The electoral boss has also said having initiated a post-polls analysis to “identify the strengths as well as weaknesses” of the election commission regarding the general elections.

“The general elections-2013 have been hailed all over the world as a big success in terms of a step forward towards strengthening of democracy in the country,” said Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Ishtiak Ahmad Khan in his initial response to the ‘White Paper’ prepared by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

The response came a day after the PTI activists had staged a protest in Lahore over the recounting results in Punjab Assembly’s constituency PP-150 Lahore XIV wherein the PTI candidate had lost to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz contestant with a narrow margin of 452 votes.

Last month, moreover, the PTI had issued a 2500-page White Paper to take on the alleged incompetence and incapability of the ECP to stop the alleged rigging during May 11 general elections, besides directly accusing the returning officers for being a part of the rigging process.

The White Paper contains documentary evidences and specific instances at several polling stations in support of its allegations. 

In response, Ishtiak Khan said, the subject matter of the White Paper is sub-judice in the election tribunals and commission would only respond in ‘broad terms.’

“The election commission supports that in order to avoid delay caused in disposal of petitions, as was the case in the past, the election commission has opted for constitution of election tribunals comprising retired district & session judges so that the election petitions could be disposed off within 120 days as specified in the law and, therefore, the election commission would also support any such demand by anyone including the PTI for expeditious disposal of election petitions.”

Supporting the PTI’s demand on thumb impression verification, the secretary asserted that it was the election commission’s initiative to prepare the electoral rolls with photographs for identification of each voter and with the additional precautionary measure in terms of obtaining thumb impressions of the voters in magnetised ink to preclude the possibility of impersonation by any person and to pre-empt/prevent casting of bogus votes. “Thus, any demand made by any quarter/political party including PTI in terms of seeking rechecking of election results and verification of thumb impressions is concurred to by the election commission so that confidence of the electorate is enhanced in the electoral system.”

He informed that the PTI had filed 77 petitions before the ECP, which, he said, have been disposed off. Besides, the secretary added, the PTI’s 61 election petitions have been forwarded to the respective ETs. Other political parties and candidates filed 320 petitions disposed off by the commission and 341 complaints forwarded to the respective ETs.

 He suggested to the PTI to present the allegations levelled in the White Paper before the ETs.

“As to the allegations mentioned in the White Paper, these need to be presented to the respective election tribunals to substantiate the complaints/grievances mentioned in the election petitions filed in the tribunals and election commission would examine the specific allegations pertaining to the ECP, if any, and would respond to them in due course of time, if and when so required, by any competent forum.”

In an implied reference to the allegations regarding polling day, Ishtiak Khan said the polling takes place under the supervision of the districts returning officers, returning officers and presiding officers with the assistance of the polling staff engaged from the provincial and the federal governments.

“No officer/official of the Election Commission of Pakistan plays any direct role in this exercise and they only assist the DROs/ROs where required.”

The secretary said, the ECP “itself is carrying out a post-general elections 2013 analysis to identify the strengths as well as weaknesses observed so that further improvement could be brought about in the electoral processes for future elections.”

 Earlier on Tuesday, the Member ECP Justice (r) Riaz Kayani had rejected the allegations levelled against him by Chairman PTI Imran Khan who had accused Kayani of playing a partisan role in the general polls and acting as a representative of PML-N.