ECP rejects PTI candidates’ papers for NA-133 by-polls

PML-N likely to get walkover, but PTI says it will move LHC against ECP's decision

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By-election in NA-133 took a new turn on Saturday after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) rejected the nomination papers of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) main and covering candidates.

The nomination papers were rejected, as the ECP maintained that the proposers of both candidates were not registered voters of the constituency.

According to the rules of the ECP, the proposer must be a registered voter of the said constituency in every election, whether it is the National Assembly constituency or a Provincial Assembly contest. Both the PTI’s nominees, Jamshaid Iqbal Cheema and Mussarat Jamshaid Cheema, failed to get a proposer from NA-133.

Saturday was the day for the scrutiny of the nomination papers of PTI’s candidates but they failed to convince the ECP over objections raised on their papers. The ECP has already accepted the nomination papers of both the PML-N and PPP’s candidates. On a whole, the ECP rejected 6 nomination papers while accepting fourteen papers.

Some party insiders are of the view that it must be probed whether it is negligence or a conspiracy within the party. Both the prime minister and chief minister showed their displeasure over the rejection of the papers. Advocate General of Punjab Ahmad Awais also gave a detailed briefing to the CM on the issue.

The rejection of PTI candidates’ nomination papers will be a walkover to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the contest, as its candidate also clinched this seat in 2018. The PML-N now thinks that the government can postpone the by-election on the pretext of law and order situation, citing the protest by banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) as a reason.

“The Punjab government has written a letter to the ECP in which it made a request to postpone NA-133 by-election due to the protest of the TLP,” PML-N veteran Khawaja Saad Rafique said while talking to media at the Model Town Secretariat on Saturday. They are now running away from the election by seeing their evident defeat, as it is a clear constituency for the PML-N and voters are already frustrated with the PTI due to inflation and price hike, Saad said, who is monitoring the PML-N campaign in the constituency.

“We are the major stakeholders of this election and we request the ECP not to postpone the contest, as stage is already set in the constituency,” the PML-N leader said. He was of the view that elections were held during the peak of Covid-19 and there should be no issue at all for holding the election now. The protest is hundreds of kilometres away from Lahore, and the government is now using it as a shield, he said.

The seat fell vacant after the death of PML-N’s Malik Pervaiz. The polling is scheduled for December 5. PML-N’s Malik Pervaiz clinched this seat by defeating PTI’s Ijaz Chaudhry who is now a sitting senator from Punjab. The PML-N now awarded a ticket to Shaista Pervaiz Malik, while the PPP gave a ticket to Ch Aslam Gill.

Addressing a hurriedly called press conference, PTI Central Punjab President Ijaz Chaudhry said that his party would approach the Lahore High Court and could even move the Supreme Court to get justice in this case. Holding the ECP responsible for this saga, he said that “our proposers are living in NA-133 for years, but their votes were transferred to another constituency” without informing them. “The ECP should answer how this happened,” he said.

Jamshaid Cheema also directed the workers to prepare for the election because he was still in the contest. “My papers were rejected due to a technical fault and it will be removed by the LHC. The NADRA or the ECP are responsible for the vote transfer of my proposer,” Cheema said. “Yes, Ijaz Chaudhry wanted the ticket for his son because he himself contested here in 2018, but I don’t see any conspiracy behind this episode,” Cheema replied when asked whether Ijaz Chaudhry was responsible for it. “Ijaz Chaudhry got active in the campaign when the party decided to give me the ticket. So, there is no conspiracy,” he added. When asked about the government’s request to postpone the election, he said that it was true that there was a situation of law and order in the country due to a protest, while the death anniversary of Khadim Rizvi was also approaching. “This decision will be made by the government and the ECP, but we are ready for the election,” he said.