Result consolidation of local bodies elections in Karachi remains on hold due to disputes
KARACHI: Well over a month after the second phase of local bodies elections was held in Sindh province, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has not yet been able to consolidate final results due to disputes filed by three political parties over results in around two dozen constituencies.
The ECP has so far held four hearings in these cases, including the last one on Wednesday, and has fixed the next hearing for 28 February.
The electoral body has also been unable to fix a date for by-elections on eleven remaining seats where poling had to be suspended due to the passing away of candidates.
This is causing ambiguity and delays in mayoral elections in Karachi and Hyderabad – the two administrative divisions where these elections were held. Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), which emerged as the second largest party in these elections, has been pressing the ECP to hold by-elections on the eleven seats, and has held protests outside the ECP offices in Karachi.
As regards the disputes over election results, the ECP is required to match the final results announced by authorities conducting election on each disputed seat with the results provided individually to each contestant by the concerned presiding officer on the official Form-11 document, which is handed to the contesting candidates soon after the vote count.
The candidates are disputing final results on grounds that those results do not match the Form-11s issued to each one of them.
During the hearing on Wednesday, the concerned presiding officers and returning officers were supposed to verify the Forms-11 issued by them to the candidates, and produce original papers to see if the two matched with each other. Some officials did that, while others could not, citing various reasons.
“The ECP suspended a few returning officers and used harsh language against some others, telling them that if they failed to tell the truth, they could lose their jobs, or even go to jail,” Raja Arif Sultan, the Naib Ameer of JI Karachi division, told BOL News.
Disputes over election results arose when soon after the polling day, the JI went to the ECP with the complaint that while Form-11s handed to the JI candidates on six seats showed the JI as the top vote getter, the final results showed the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) as the winner.
Following the complaint, the ECP stopped the result consolidation process pending an inquiry. A number of sessions were held by the ECP to hear out both sides and examine the documents.
The number of complaints has since risen to over two dozen, as two other major contestants, the PPP and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), have also disputed results of some other seats.
Commenting on Wednesday’s hearing, a provincial minister and president of PPP’s Karachi wing, Saeed Ghani, told Bol News that the presiding officers were asked to confirm whether the Forms -11 issued to the JI were authentic.
“I think that apart from one officer who termed the forms correct, most of them said they were not authentic and may have been forged. Some pointed out that the forms did not carry their signature. Others said there were no official stamps on those forms. All of them verified the authenticity of the result forms they had submitted to the returning officers,” he said.
The election disputes are related to the second phase of local bodies elections that were held in the southern districts of Sindh province on 15 January. The ECP released final results three weeks ago, according to which the PPP won 91 out of a total 246 seats, while the JI emerged as a close competitor with 85 seats.
The JI won nearly all of its seats in the seven districts of Karachi, where 235 of the total 246 union council seats up for grabs were located.
The ruling PPP had a smooth sailing in Hyderabad, where it is in a comfortable position to elect its mayor. But it faces a tough situation in Karachi. Besides, lingering disputes over elections results have also delayed formation of local governments in Hyderabad.
Meanwhile, the PTI is blaming the ruling PPP of having rigged the elections through the returning officers. “A returning officer is an employee of the Local Government Department. Since the minister for local government was also present in the hearing, how can you expect a returning officer to tell the truth in his presence,” Ali Zaidi, a former president of PTI Sindh, said in a media talk on 7 February.
Ironically, over a month after the elections, except for one meeting, the PPP and JI have not held talks to chalk out a possible alliance over the mayoral offices in the the two cities.
This may in part be due to the fact that even as the ECP continues to hold regular hearings on given dates, the matter has been pushed into the background due to controversies surrounding the holding of provincial elections in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Punjab, which have now landed in the Supreme Court.