ISLAMABAD - The Judicial Commission formed to probe allegations of rigging in general elections has made it clear that it would confine its work to the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the Ordinance under which it was set up and its proceeding will not be adversarial, as demanded by PTI.

The inquiry commission, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Nasirul Mulk and includes Justice Ameer Hani Muslim and Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, held proceedings on Thursday and elicited views of different parties and relevant individuals.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is the party which had demanded the constitution of commission on rigging issue. Its main thrust before the commission was that its work should be inquisitorial and adversarial. But, Commission Chairman Nasirul Mulk ruled that it was a different kind of commission and its proceedings would not be adversarial. He said the inquiry commission would help in reaching the conclusion within the scope of TORs.

The PTI had only filed 40 pages statement. The commission therefore gave it one-week time for submitting supporting evidence and material regarding the allegations of rigging it had leveled. The PTI stance is that massive rigging took place in these constituencies during the 2013 general elections.

The commission also observed that 50 per cent allegations are against the ECP therefore the Election Commission of Pakistan is directed to file comments, and the chairman of National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) ordered to furnish within three days its analysis report pertaining to 37 constituencies.

The judicial commission constituted under the General Election 2013 Inquiry Commission Ordinance, 2015 had earlier sought evidence, proposals from the political parties who participated in the elections for its consideration. As many as 21 political parties and 47 individuals have so far submitted their proposals.

The Chief Justice asked all the parties to assist on three questions: (1) whether the general elections 2013 were not fair and free?; (2) Whether there was systematic rigging; (3) and what is the overall affect of the rigging? In the beginning of the proceeding, the chief justice briefed about the procedure of trial by the commission. The commission hearings would be held in the open court, but some of the proceedings may be held in-camera; however, the report would be made public.

The chief justice noted that some of the political parities’ proposals were about individual grievances. The individual proposals will not be considered, but could be take up some other time, he said. Former Prosecutor General NAB K K Agha had been appointed amicus curiae (friend of court) to assist the commission.

Justice Nasir said the media coverage should not be biased. Discussions in media should not be on the merit of the case. The reporting should be based on facts and not the comments. “The reporters shall not interview within the premises of Supreme Court, the chief justice directed and said the leadership of the parties should also avoid it.

Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, representing PTI, said that the importance of the commission should not be underestimated. The covenant made in the constitution and the will of people should be respected. The people of Pakistan should be rule by their representatives. He acknowledged that the history of Pakistan is not good.

“I have witnessed various tenures (of government),” he remarked. He said that in 1977 people came on streets and the then government held dialogue with the political parties and conceded for fresh election. But it was not implemented, and then the nation suffered for 10 years and 33,000 political workers were sent to jail, 23 people burnt themselves. He said all this happened because the leaders did not show the sagacity.

Pirzada said that the PTI for three months demanded the resignation of the prime minister. Article 218 of Constitution was violated. He said the PTI wanted inquiry into the pre-poll and the polling day rigging. The Election Commission of Pakistan was deeply flawed and under plan. The results were manipulated, he maintained. He said officials and persons involved in the rigging should be summoned. The commission has the inquisitorial power and wanted the proceeding of quasi-adversorial nature. Pirzada said that it was the responsibility of the Commission to find out the truth as this is inquisitorial.

Justice Nasirul Mulk told Pirzada that the statements submitted by PTI were ‘generalised’, and asked the party to submit detailed evidence of election rigging. Hafeez Pirzada however replied that the party had thousands of documents that would prove elections were rigged, and asked the court for 10 days time to collect and submit the evidence. Justice Amir Hani Muslim remarked that the commission had only 45 days and if 10 days are given to PTI out of that, what time would be left for the commission proceeding.

Hafeez also said that the party had approached Nadra for forensic reports of 37 constituencies, but they were not supplied by the authority. To which the judges replied that such reports are the property of the court and not of any party. The commission ordered Nadra chairman to furnish forensic reports within three days time, and advised the PTI counsel to collect copies of the report from the court.

Representatives of the PPP and Jamaat-e-Islami also appeared before the commission. Sardar Latif Khosa leader of Pakistan People’s Party appeared before the commission and contended that the people of Pakistan were deprived of choosing their representatives in free fair and transparent manner in the corridors of power. He contended that heavy burden of adjudication is on the commission to inquire as to whether 2013 general elections were held in transparent manner or not.

The chief justice asked the learned counsel as to whether his allegations relate to specific constituencies or to whole of Pakistan. The commission asked the learned counsel if he wanted to submit any additional proposals. Latif Khosa replied that he would submit it after consulting party leadership. The commission then asked Khosa to submit fresh supporting documents within a week, besides seeking reply from the Election Commission of Pakistan. The commission also asked Khosa to assist it as to whether cases either pending or decided by the Election Tribunals or pending with the Supreme Court, the commission can also look into these cases. Mian Aslam of Jammat-e-Islami appearing before the commission contended that they had provided it supporting documents and proof of rigging in Karachi, Hyderabad and Fata.

He however, sought a week’s time for arranging a counsel for the proceedings. Khalid Ranjah representing Pakistan Muslim League-Qaid also appeared before the court. The commission also sought reply from the ECP. Hashmat Habib, counsel for Mohajir Qaumi Movement Pakistan (Affaq Group) appeared before the commission and submitted that they will also submit additional proposals with supporting documents.

Maulana Asmat Ullah, former Provincial Minister for Finance Balochistan, representing Jamait Ullem-e-Islam (Ideology) told the commission that over 10 candidates for National Assembly and 18 for Provincial Assembly contested election from the party platform and alleged that widespread rigging was made in the 2013 general elections. “Let the reply be filed by the ECP first then we would hear you in details”, Chief Justice told him and sought reply from the Election Commission. Nobody from Awami National Party (ANP) and BNP appeared before the commission, which adjourned the hearing till April 23.