LAHORE - Justice Ibad-ur-Rehman Lodhi of the Lahore High Court yesterday took exception to the appointment of inexperienced, incompetent and ignorant returning officers for the scrutiny of nomination papers of candidates for the upcoming local government elections in the Punjab. Justice Lodhi remarked such poor appointments by the Election Commission of Pakistan could create difficulties in conducting fair and free elections.

The judge gave these remarks in a petition against a returning officer of Green Town who had tampered with record and changed his decision even after accepting the nomination papers of two candidates, Tanvir Nisar Chaudhry and Chaudhry Gulzar Ahmad advocate.

Deputy Attorney General Sohail Khan appeared on behalf of the returning officer and tendered unconditional apology, saying the ECP would be informed of the observations of the court. The judge accepted his apology, but took serious notice of the negligence of the authorities concerned and observed that special arrangements were needed for the training of the polling staff. He held that the ECP should appoint permanent staff for this purpose.

Tanvir Nisar and others had filed a petition against the returning officer, contending that the RO first declared him and Chaudhry Gulzar Ahmad advocate as valid candidates, but later he changed his previous order.

The petitioners said the RO changed his previous order which he could not do under the law. He alleged the RO might have indulged in corruption. He requested the judge to punish him and set aside his order.

In another similar case, the LHC snubbed Punjab Election Commissioner Masood Khan over his negligence regarding the delimitation of a union council of Gurjat district.

A two-judge bench sought a detailed report on wrong demarcation in a union council of Tanda village of district Gujrat and adjourned further hearing until October 13. s

The court remarked a strict action would be taken against the officers found guilty in doing wrong de-limitations.

Amjad Ali, a PTI candidate for vice-chairman at UC 4, had filed the petition, pointing out the delimitation officer had confessed before the court that the division of the UC was wrong, but refused to correct the wrong division on the pressure of the ruling party.

Punjab Election Commissioner Masood Ahmad Malik appeared in the court and said he had confirmed from the officials concerned that the division was correct. The petitioner’s counsel said Malik was lying. He also furnished a copy of the map of the area, which showed the UC’s area was divided on mala fide intention and on the pressure of the ruling party.

He prayed to the court to take action against Delimitation Officer Majid Dogar for making wrong division of the UC. The court snubbed Punjab Election Commissioner Masood Khan and directed him to submit a detailed report on the matter.