Re-polling to be conducted on March 18 in constituency that was beset by allegations of rigging
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday issued a short order declaring last week’s by-polls in the NA-75 Daska constituency null and void, and ordered re-elections in the entire constituency for March 18.
By-elections for the Daska seat were held on Feb. 19, but became controversial at the outset after 20 presiding officers “vanished” for several hours and returned with results that did not match the information that had earlier been provided to the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) candidate. The polls were also marred by violence, as two people were killed and three others injured when rival groups opened fire on each other outside a polling station.
Amidst the mounting controversy, the ECP issued a press release stating it suspected the results of 20 polling stations had been falsified. Meanwhile, the PMLN alleged massive rigging, even as the PTI claimed victory and accused the opposition of only accepting results if it went in its favor. The ECP said results of the NA-75 constituency were received with “unnecessary delay,” and presiding officers did not respond to multiple attempts to contact them.
In its Thursday order—issued under the powers conferred to the ECP in accordance with Article 218 (3) of the Constitution and Article 19 (1) of the Election Act, 2017—a five-member commission headed by the chief election commissioner ordered re-polling across Daska. In its order, it said that this decision was necessary because a “conducive environment was not available for the candidates and voters and the election had not been conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in a transparent manner.”
The PMLN hailed the ECP’s decision, claiming it had “exposed” the PTI-led government’s conspiracy to rig the polls. “The ECP was surprised on the rigging tactics employed,” he told media and alleged that Prime Minister Imran Khan had been personally involved in the conspiracy to rig the polls in the PTI’s favor.
The PTI, meanwhile, said that it would wait for the detailed order and then would decide on its future course of action. In a media interaction, Information Minister Shibli Faraz claimed the order was a “victory” for the PTI, as it proved the ECP was an independent institution.