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SC rejects petition challenging Khawaja Asif`s election

By Nasir Iqbal 2016-11-11
ISLAMABAD: Khawaja Mohammad Asif breathed a huge sigh of relief on Thursday after the Supreme Court finally rejected a petition challenging his election from the NA-110 (Sialkot) constituency.

The minister who holdsthe all-important portfolios of defence and water and power had bagged 92,484 votes, against his main rival Usman Dar`s 71,573 votes during the May 2013 general elections.

`For the reasons to be recorded separately, both theseappealsaredismissed, Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali said in a short order following three days of backto-back hearings.

A three-judge Supreme Court bench had taken up the petitions of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) candidate Usman Dar and Arshad Mehmood Baggu, challenging the April 25, 2014 order of a Lahore Election Tribunal, which had dismissed their election petition.

`I am humbled...

Alhamdulillah. I have no words to thank Almighty.The Supreme Court has endorsed the will of people of Sialkot,` the defence minister tweeted soon after the court`s decision.

NA-110 (Sialkot) is one of the four constituencies apart from NA-122 (Lahore),NA-125(Lahore), and NA-154 (Lodhran) which remained the focus of the PTI`s attack in their campaign to establish rig-ging in the 2013 elections.

PTI Secretary General Jahangir Tareen later bagged NA-154 (Lodhran) in a subsequent by-election.

On July 22, 2015 a threemember commission of inquiry had also rejected the PTPs allegations of organised rigging in the elections.

During the previous hearing, the court had ordered the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) to verify thumb impressions on ballots polled in NA-110, with a direction to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to provide counterfoils and thumb impressions on votes cast in the constituency so that Nadra could complete the verification exercise. The cost of the entire exercise of verification of thethumb impressions was to be borne by the petitioner, Usman Dar.

During Thursday`s proceedings, the court observed that the successful candidate could not be heldresponsibleforanyillegality or negligence committed by election staff.

The court also referred to the statement of one of the returning ofñcers, who had appeared before the inquiry commission on rigging during 2013 elections, describing polling day like the `day of judgement`, when everybody was so hard-pressed that they had no time to think about anything else.

On Thursday, senior counsel Farooq H. Naek, representing Khawaja Asif, argued that there was no evidence, adding that neither the returning officer was examined, nor were any documents or evidence produced before the tribunal to establish allegations of pre-poll rigging.

Citing a number of past cases, the counsel argued that the proceedings before the election tribunal were like a criminal case, where the onus to establish allegations fell entirely on the plaintiff.

Referring to four different reports by Nadra and ECP that were submitted before the apex court, the counsel said none of the reports could ever establish that the polls in NA-110 were materially affected, adding that it had become a norm to point fingers towards the judiciary whenever an adverse decision was issued.

On the other hand, Dr Babar Awan, representing Usman Dar, argued that the election record of five polling stations out of 29 was found to be missing, whereas the seals of many election bags were broken.