ISLAMABAD

On the complaint of a PTI contestant, a returning officer has ordered votes recounting today (Tuesday) for a National Assembly constituency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after receiving reports of the stealing of 30,000 ballot papers allegedly misused to cast fake votes on May 11, the polling day for general elections.

In a related development, the Election Commission of Pakistan met under the chairmanship of Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim on Monday against the backdrop of instance in rigging complaints from different electoral constituencies across the country.

The commission took exception to the unusual delay in polls results compilation instructing the provincial election commissioners to have the elections' results compilation process expedited.

In addition, the electoral body asked the returned candidates for the respective NA and Provincial Assemblies constituencies to have their elections' expenditures details submitted to the RO concerned not later than May 21.

In NA-18, Additional District and Sessions Judge Aurangzeb Khattak ordered recounting of the votes on the complaint of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) contestant Sardar Yaqoob.

Yaqoob, on Sunday, had moved the RO office along with the related evidence to allege that at least 30,000 ballot papers had gone missing a night prior to the general polls while accusing his rival candidate of having a role in this regard. He had also alleged that the missing ballot papers were already polled in the ballot boxes hours before the polling had started on Saturday.

Another noted contestant from the same constituency Sardar Haider Zaman from Tehreek-e-Suba Hazara on Monday also complained to the RO in a written application about rigging by means of stealing of the ballot papers. The RO has ordered votes recounting in the presence of the candidates, to be held today (Tuesday).

Interestingly, even though, the result for NA-18 is pending and has not been cleared by the RO, the ECP on its website posted the polls' result in the said constituency. The NA-18 result, according to the ECP website, lists Murtaza Javed Abbasi of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz as the returning candidate who bagged highest number of 69,532 votes. Sardar Yaqoob got 41,061 votes and Sardar Haider Zaman secured 36,286 votes.

When approached, the CEC Fakhruddin Ebrahim told this scribe that the polls' result would be changed accordingly, following any changes in consequence of the recounting of the NA-18 votes. "In case there's any change, we'll change the posted results and update them with the fresh ones. That's no big deal. We've already made it clear that the unofficial poll results are not final and are subjected to change, if required," he added reiterating necessary action in the light of the RO findings.

"It is to be seen if the RO directly initiates an action or recommends the same to the ECP. In case he goes for a decisive course, the ECP will have no role left since the judges are independent and outside the administrative purview of the commission but if he leaves for us to adopt any course of action, we'll definitely comply," he said.

In the wake of severe criticism the ECP faces for the delay in announcing the pending general elections' results, raising speculations of poll rigging, the poll authority in the Monday meeting decided to instruct its provincial offices to expedite the results compilation and transmission (to the ECP). Director General (Elections) Syed Sher Afgan wrote to all the four provincial election commissioners to comply with the ECP decision on the polls' results compilation.

In addition, the ECP, in a press release, cited related electoral provisions to ask every candidate returned to the NA and PAs to submit to the ROs concerned, the details of elections' expenses within 10 days from the conduct of the general elections.