ISLAMABAD - Feeling the heat of political setbacks at the hands of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), one after another, Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s party has moved the Election Commission of Pakistan alleging foul play in one of the National Assembly constituencies it has lost in the by-polls.

Corresponding to this development, the poll authority has taken up the matter for hearing on September 25 (coming Wednesday) and has directed the district returning officer (DRO) to probe the issue and submit a related report before the hearing date. It also served notices to all the contestants from the particular constituency.

In the light of a previous inquiry, the ECP is likely to dismiss the case and declare the PTI’s candidate as returned for the NA seat in question.

Interestingly, JUI-F appears to have suddenly waken up to move the ECP against a by-election that was held almost a month ago while it overlooks the Wednesday poll defeat despite creating much hue and cry over it.

According to details, Attaur Rehman, the younger brother of JUI-F Chief Fazlur Rehman, appeared before a three-member ECP bench on Thursday to allege that female voters were deprived of their right to franchise in NA-27 Lakki Marwat during the by-election held on August 22.

Headed by the Acting Chief Election Commissioner Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, the ECP panel, which heard the JUI-F leader, included Justice (r) Riaz Kayani and Justice (r) Shahzad Akbar. In his arguments, Attaur Rehman reiterated to prove that the PTI supporters did not allow the female supporters of JUI-F cast their votes in the by-poll and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government machinery was instrumental in this regard.

This took the acting CEC and the two ECP members by surprise who observed that an inquiry had already been completed on this count and no evidence of any wrongdoing was found.

Countering the JUI-F leader, the unofficially returned candidate from PTI for NA-27 Colonel (r) Aminullah Marwat told the ECP bench, the DRO for NA-27 had launched a detailed inquiry into the matter and submitted his report to the ECP which suggested that no evidence of denial of right to franchise to the female voters was found in the by-poll. Marwat also contended that low female voters turnout was not an exception in Lakki Marwat only but it was dominantly prevalent across the rural belt of KP and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Attaur Rehman requested the ECP panel to withhold the upcoming notification on the returned candidate for NA-27. The commission refused to entertain this request stating that official notification would be issued in the light of the DRO report and the fulfillment of other constitutional requirements.

The panel issued directions to the DRO for NA-27 Lakki Marwat to submit his input in the form of a report regarding the fresh allegations from JUI-F candidate before September 25 and summoned all the 16 poll contestants on the said date.   

Inflicting a mega blow to JUI-F, the PTI has grabbed NA-25 Dera Ismail Khan-cum-Tank and NA-27 Lakki Marwat, the two NA seats that traditionally belonged to JUI-F, in the by-elections, in addition to retaining NA-5 Nowshera-I. Fazl-ur-Rehman had won the May 11 elections on NA-24, NA-25 and NA-27. He had retained NA-24 DI Khan and vacated the other seats.  

Taking suo moto notice on August 22, the Peshawar High Court had ordered the ECP to withhold the election results of NA-5 and NA-27 following reports of denial of voting right to the female voters in the two constituencies. In its detailed order dated August 26, the court had directed the ECP to constitute respective committees to be headed by the DROs to inquire the matter and conduct re-polling at 18 polling stations, nine each in each constituency, if required.

In pursuance of PHC orders, the ECP had constituted the two DROs-headed relevant committees comprising of the district government officials to probe the matter and submit the related report. Both the committees, in their reports, had informed the ECP of having not found any evidence of foul play in NA-5 and NA-27.

Following this, the commission is to declare the PTI’s respective candidates from the two constituencies, Imran Khattak and Aminullah Marwat, as returned, upon the submission of their electoral expenditure statements. The ECP has not declared the results for both the NA seats.

Furthermore, the RO for NA-5 is expected to announce Khattak as returned candidate for NA-5 today (Friday), following which, he will have ten days to submit his electoral expenditure statement in order to be officially notified as winner by the ECP.

Marwat would be announced as winner candidate for NA-27 by the RO after receiving clearance from the DRO. Following this, the ten-day deadline for him to submit the election expenses statement would start.

The commission says it has received the result for NA-25 and PTI’s Dawar Kundi would be announced as returned candidate soon.