ISLAMABAD - The war of words between a mainstream political party and a top electoral functionary does not seem to be over with the addition of a detailed rejoinder issued from the latter against the allegations levelled against him.
In a telephonic conversation with this correspondent on Wednesday followed by a detailed email, Member Election Commission (MEC) from Punjab Justice (Retd) Riaz Kayani contended that he was instrumental in the conduct of what he termed were the free and fair general elections while responding to the accusations and reservations raised against his style of functioning as an MEC by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Kayani recalled the scenario involving the May general elections to assert that he had frontline role in reshuffling the top bureaucracy at the centre and provinces during the caretaker set-up.
In this regard, the MEC said he wrote the following note, “Chief Secretaries, IGs, CCPOs should also be transferred whereas DPOs, SHOs as well as patwaris should be reshuffled along with EDOs, who control the education department, from where most of the presiding officers and other polling staff are asked to perform duties.”
He said, “After the formation of provincial caretaker governments, a notification to this effect was issued. The ECP kept on reminding the provincial caretaker set-ups to abide by the transfer order. The Punjab government left no stone unturned in transfer of all those officers, who were likely to affect, in any manner, the result of the ensuing general elections.”
The PTI’s top leadership including its Chairman Imran Khan has repeatedly raised concerns over Justice (Retd) Riaz Kayani’s presence in the ECP as its Member while dubbing him a representative of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
The party has issued a 2500-page White Paper to take on what it alleges is the incompetence and incapability of the ECP to stop the alleged rigging during May 11 general elections. Besides, the PTI directly accuses the electoral machinery, especially, Riaz Kayani as well as the returning officers of being a part of the rigging process.
On the other hand, the MEC cited some instances to justify his stance. He referred to National Assembly’s constituency NA-19 whereby an application from PML-N candidate Omar Ayub Khan against PTI’s Raja Amir Zaman was disposed off with Zaman declared as returned candidate.
“Omar Ayub made an application to the Secretary ECP seeking recount in many polling stations for reasons quoted in the application.
This application was put up before two MECs including me and on the same day, the returning officer was directed to make a recount in the presence of all the contesting candidates with reference to the allegations made by the petitioner. After receiving a report from the RO concerned, the applicant was directed to seek redressal of his grievance from the election tribunal and his application was disposed off. Why would I decide against a PML-N candidate if I was N-League’s representative?” Kayani asked this scribe.
Responding to enormous criticism from the PTI involving his visit to NA-125 during the polling day, where PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique defeated the PTI’s Hamid Khan, Riaz Kayani said, “I definitely visited the polling stations of NA-125 following a complaint from the PTI candidate that the presiding officers were going slow, which would deprive many voters to exercise their right of franchise. I immediately contacted the POs and told them that before 05:00pm no voters should go home without casting their votes. Realising the gravity of the situation, I speak to former chief election commissioner and requested him to at least extend for one hour the polling time from 5:00pm to 6:00pm, which was extended.”
On the PTI’s demand for thumb verification from NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority) the MEC recalled the last month’s contempt of court proceedings against Imran Khan and said, “The PTI‘s demand was brought under the notice of Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry in the contempt proceedings. On the very first day of hearing, the lawyer representing the chairman PTI was told to show him Article 225 of the constitution read with section 52 of the RoPA (Representation of the People Act) 1976 to make him understand that issue of verification of thumb prints fell within the ambit and jurisdiction of the election tribunals.”