ISLAMABAD - Former chief and additional chief secretaries to ex-caretaker government of Punjab confirmed that two days before the general elections 200 persons were recruited from Urdu Bazaar on the request of Provincial Election Commissioner of Punjab.

Former Punjab Chief Secretary Javed Iqbal and then Additional Chief Secretary Rao Iftikhar on oath recorded statements before a three-judge inquiry commission, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Nasirul Mulk. The commission is probing the allegations of rigging in elections 2013.

PTI's counsel Abdul Hafiz Pirzada, PML-N lawyer Shahid Hamid and Elections Commission of Pakistan lawyer Salman Akram Raja crossed examined both the witnesses.

Before the start of proceeding, the commission ordered ex-caretaker Punjab chief minister Najam Sethi, who was not summoned on Wednesday, and other witnesses to go out of courtroom. A clip of TV Talk Show, in which Naseem Zehra was anchorperson, was played in the courtroom, wherein additional secretary had admitted that 200 persons were recruited from Urdu Bazar.

On the query of PTI counsel, Javed Iqbal stated that additional secretary Rao Iftikhar, was liaison officer for the contact with Provincial Election Commissioner. Former chief secretary acknowledged that two or three days after May 9, 2013 Mr Rao had conveyed to him that he (Rao) had received call from Provincial Chief Election Commissioner Anwar Mehboob for the provision of 200 persons from Urdu Bazar.

The additional secretary also admitted the fact, and stated he had asked the Lahore and Rawalpindi commissioners to comply ECP’s request and this was done on the same day with the permission of chief secretary. Chief Secretary Javed Iqbal in his statement believed that it was a normal request because the provincial government was supporting the ECP in the election process.

Regarding retaining four secretaries of previous government, namely Shahid Khan (Home), Tariq Bajwa (Finance), Aslam Kambo (Education) and Arif Nadeem (Health), the ex-chief secretary stated that Shahid was retained due to terrorism, Tariq because he was also looking after the issue of next budget, Aslam had been working on special programme on education, while Arif was working on prevention of dengue and measles programme of Punjab province.

When PTI's counsel asked that whether he had received any recommendation regarding retention of these officers from outside, the former chief secretary said that CM had mentioned that the Country Director of DFID had requested for the retention of Education Secretary Aslam Kambo.

The former secretary however stated that he is not aware that extra election material was printed or not. Regarding the transportation of the material, he replied that it was transported to different constituencies by the army and Punjab government.

When the PTI's counsel asked Javed Iqbal whether he is aware that ballot papers were supplied on polling day (May 11), he said that ballot papers were supplied in different constituencies, situated in Kotli Sattian, Kasur, Gujrat and Hafizabad.

According to him, they had complained to the Election Commission regarding delay in the supply of ballot papers. He also admitted that under the law, three days before the day of election, ballot papers should be supplied.

When the PTI's counsel asked whether he was aware who selected the constituencies for the supply of ballot papers, he said that it was the matter between Election Commissioner and Returning Officers (ROs) and he was not aware who selected the constituencies.

Shahid Hamid, counsel for PML-N, put questions relating to his service career and posting. “Did you mostly remain posted in KP, asked Shahid to which the secretary replied he remained posted in KP and Sindh and also served in five different federal ministries. “Do you know that Health Secretary Arif Nadeem is the brother of PTI candidate, who was contesting election against Nawaz Sharif?” asked Shahid. Secretary replied in affirmative.

The secretary said he was inducted as Punjab chief secretary during the time of caretaker government in Punjab. He also admitted that Higher Education secretary was transferred but Elementary School Secretary was not changed.

Rao Iftikhar while recording the statement said that he took charge as additional chief secretary on April 8, 2013 and left the office on May 27 as he was transferred to federal government on his own request.

Rao was focal person to assist the ECP in the election process. Regarding his function, he told that procedure was laid down for providing support/staff.

Proceeding of the commission was adjourned until today (Thursday) at 11:30am, wherein Provincial Election Commissioner Anwar Mehboob's statement will be recorded and he will be cross-examined.