Uncertainties shroud NA-172 contest
DERA GHAZI KHAN, Feb 29: While Hafiz Abdul Karim, the losing PML-N candidate against PML-Q’s Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari, has demanded re-election at NA-172, recount in the name of ‘consolidationÂ’ continued on Wednesday and Thursday despite the fact that the Lahore High Court (LHC) had stayed the recount on Tuesday (Feb 26).
In a bit strange move, Farooq Leghari’s elder son, Senator Jamal Khan Leghari, walked out of the ‘consolidation’ process on Wednesday and later accused the returning officer, additional sessions judge Jenandad Khan Banth, and assistant returning officer, civil judge Fiaz Ahmad Zaheer, of accepting gratification from the PML-N candidate to help him win the polls against former president of Pakistan at any cost.
While the perturbed RO and the ARO refuted the allegations, quite amazingly, Farooq Leghari asked his another son, Awais Leghari, to send a representative to join the ‘consolidationÂ’ process next day on Thursday to get out of the crisis anyway.
The RO later confirmed that during the ‘consolidation’ process, results could be changed upon encountering some discrepancies, especially regarding count of postal ballots. The representatives of the PML-N and the PPP’s losing candidates, however, did not join the ‘consolidation’ process, terming the whole process “unlawful” and “unauthorised”.
On the other hand, Hafiz Karim, who has left many political lords stunned by giving a tough time to a seasoned tribal elder of high stature, told reporters the other day that the whole government machinery wanted Farooq Leghari to succeed in the Feb 18 general elections. They provided Farooq Leghari every opportunity to clinch the seat on the polling day as well as during a repoll held on Feb 23. He accused the government machinery of using every possible tactic to help Leghari win elections, prominently by obstructing a re-count on his (Karim’s) application.
Farooq Leghari, however, obtained a stay order from the LHC against the recount plea on Feb 26 but the controversy deepened further when the RO started ‘consolidation’ of the result of the whole constituency next day. Senator Jamal Leghari left the process in the middle by protesting the judicial officers’ conduct allegedly tilting in Karim’s favour and walked out from the RO’s office.
Later, talking to reporters at Circuit House on Wednesday, Jamal Leghari levelled corruption charges against the RO and the ARO for accepting KarimÂ’s plea for a recount.
Jamal Leghari also showed sheer distrust on both the judicial officers supervising elections at his father’s constituency.
The consolidation process, however, did not stop despite Jamal Leghari’s ‘fieryÂ’ press conference and Jamal’s younger brother Awais Leghari was authorised by his father to send a representative to participate in the process next day on Thursday.
Later, the RO told Dawn that Jamal Leghari had chanted corruption charges against him and the ARO on the basis of some miss-conceptions and later Awais Leghari telephonically excused and begged pardon from them. “Awais also reposed his and his father’s trust on us,Â” Banth told Dawn.
The fate of LeghariÂ’s success, however, still hangs in balance as the matter regarding allowing or disallowing a recount is still pending before the LHC which will take up the case on March 4.
Responding to another query, the RO said that they were not violating the LHC stay order as they were not resorting to a recount and instead they were just checking postal ballots to consolidate the result. He said that this way they could detect some ‘mathematical errors’, which could even change the whole result.
The NA-172 contest remained tarnished from the very outset owing to at least six written complaints made by presiding officers about rigging by the cronies of tribal elder followed by a re-balloting at one polling station and finally a plea for recount of ballots and the ensuing LHC stay order.