Pak election commission refuses to take action on vote buying allegations in Senate polls

PTI
Islamabad, Pakistan Published: Mar 10, 2021, 11:27 AM(IST)

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said this on a plea challenging the election of Opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement's (PDM) candidate and former premier Yusuf Raza Gilani to the Senate. The top electoral body was expected to hear the petition on March 11 but it took up the case after a request by the government.

Pakistan's top election body on Tuesday refused to take action on the allegations of vote buying in the recent Senate elections just on the basis of video clips unless those involved in offering and getting bribes were named.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said this on a plea challenging the election of Opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement's (PDM) candidate and former premier Yusuf Raza Gilani to the Senate. The top electoral body was expected to hear the petition on March 11 but it took up the case after a request by the government.

A four-member commission of ECP headed by Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi heard the petition. The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of Prime Minister Imran Khan was represented in the hearing by counsel Ali Zafar.

The PTI has challenged the victory of former premier Gilani as Senator on the basis of alleged fraud, urging the ECP not to issue notification of his success.
Gilani became a Senator after defeating PTI candidate Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on March 3, a big blow to Prime Minister Khan who had personally campaigned for his Cabinet colleague.

The government's allegations are based on a video of Gilani's son Ali Haider, who is shown talking with some PTI members and telling them how a vote can be "spoiled".

The PTI, in its petition, said that since seven votes were "spoiled" in the Senate elections and its candidate lost by just five votes, it showed that the PTI lawmakers in the video were bribed.

Refusing to take action on allegations of vote buying in the polls just on the basis of video clips, the ECP urged the government's lawyer to make all persons involved in the video scandal a party to the case and said that if the charges of giving and receiving bribes are proven, then action should be taken against all the culprits.

Government's counsel Zafar was reluctant to name those who allegedly received bribes but after initial refusal he agreed to do so after consultation with the government. The ECP asked him to file a fresh petition.

In another development, the Islamabad High Court was set to hear on Wednesday a petition by PTI member Ali Nawaz in which he challenged the election of Gilani to the Senate.

Chief Justice Athar Minallah will hear the petition seeking to declare his victory unconstitutional and illegal as he had won through rigging and bribery.

The new challenge to Gilani came in the wake of his nomination as the Opposition's joint candidate for the Senate chairman election scheduled on March 12.

PDM, an alliance of 11 parties, also nominated Maulana Ghafoor Haidri of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) for the post of deputy chairman of Senate.

In an effort to sway votes in a tight competition, the government offered to support Haidri if his party supported Sadiq Sanjrani, who is supported by the government for the Senate chairman. However, Haidri rejected the offer.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Khan, addressing the Cabinet meeting, said that technology such as electronic voting machines (EVM) would be used in future to avoid voting fraud.

"We can't have the kind of elections which have happened in the past? We need to use EVM technology for transparent elections and I want regular updates on it," he said.

After Shaikh's defeat, Prime Minister Khan had last week lashed out at the election commission, accusing it of discrediting democracy, damaging the morality of the nation and failing to stop corruption in the closely-contested Senate elections.

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