File photo of Imran Khan. Photograph:( Reuters )
In a major relief to Imran Khan, the Supreme Court today suspended a recount in a National Assembly constituency in Lahore where the cricketer-turned-politician had narrowly defeated his rival in the July 25 general elections.
Khan, 65, set to become Pakistan's new prime minister next week, faced a piquant situation after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) yesterday only gave him conditional approval to take oath as a Member of the National Assembly. He had contested and won from five constituencies.
While the ECP withheld his victory notifications from two constituencies, it declared him winner from three others from where he contested, subject to the decision of a pending litigation against him over alleged violation of the election code of conduct.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Saad Rafique had petitioned for a recount in the NA-131 Lahore-9 constituency, from where Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Khan won by 680 votes.
Rafique had alleged that the presiding officer deliberately rejected hundreds of votes.
Rafique's lawyer contended that a recount request is valid if the victory margin is less than five per cent.
Suspending the Lahore High Court's (LHC) order to re-tabulate results of NA-131 constituency, the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar accepted Khan's petition against the ruling for hearing.
The bench observed that the result of NA-131 has been compiled the constituency could not be deprived of representation in Parliament.
The apex court directed Rafique's lawyer to approach the relevant election tribunal with his complaint and request for a recount.
Khan's PTI, the single largest party in the National Assembly, has nominated him to be the next prime minister.
Khan emerged victorious in five National Assembly constituencies NA-35 Bannu, NA-53 Islamabad, NA-95 Mianwali, NA-131 Lahore and NA-243 Karachi in the general elections.
Soon after the Supreme Court verdict, Khan's lawyer Babar Awan wrote to the ECP, requesting the commission to issue the notification of the PTI chief's victory in NA-131 Lahore and NA-53 Islamabad, Dawn newspaper reported.
In his application, Awan argued that since the apex court had nullified the high court's judgement, the ECP should issue the victory notification of Khan.
Meanwhile, Rafique took to Twitter today to condemn the Supreme Court's decision to halt the recount. "Halting the recount has cast doubts on the entire process," he wrote.
The PML-N leader said Imran's victory had been earlier pronounced by a lead of 680 votes. He further stated that the recount of rejected votes and five polling stations reduced 117 votes from Imran's tally.
"The Election Act 2017 has been completely disregarded. I have been deprived of my basic right of recount, which is allowed by the new legislation," he wrote.
On August 4, the Lahore High Court heard Rafique's petition and ordered a recount in the constituency. The high court had also ordered the ECP to withhold Khan's victory notification for NA-131.