The Election Commission on Pakistan on Wednesday unseated the Rawalpindi mayor and 17 members of the Rawalpindi Municipal Corporation (RMC) on reserved seats for violating election laws because the PML Metropolitan president and Rawalpindi mayor influenced members to vote for his favoured candidates.
However, the mayor, Sardar Naseem, has announced that their ouster is against the law and the commission will be taken to court. “Our lawyers are working to file a petition is the higher courts, as the case is already pending in the Lahore High Court Rawalpindi bench,” he told Dawn.
The commission, which included Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Raza, Altaf Qureshi, Ghaffar Soomro, Shakil Baloch and Irshad Qaiser, announced its decision on two separate petitions by PML-N’s Tahira Tanveer and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Lubna Iqbal.
Commission ruled on petitions alleging election laws were violated during reserved seat elections
In their petitions, Ms Tanveer and Ms Iqbal alleged that Mr Naseem used his influence to rig the reserved seat elections before he was elected mayor.
The commission’s order states: “Provisions of Article 140-A of Consitition of Pakistan, section 37 of Punjab Local Government Act 2013 read with Rule 46 and 53 of the Punjab Local Governments (Conduct of Elections) Rules 2013 and all other powers enabling it in that behalf, the Election Commission of Pakistan hereby set aside the election of Mayor and 17 members of the Municipal Corporation Rawalpindi as been void and recalls its notification dated December 28, 2016 to the extent of Mayor of RMC and notification of 17 members dated November 30, 2016 are de-notified and consequently said seats stand vacant.”
Ms Iqbal told Dawn she was contesting the reserved seats elections on the PTI ticket. She said that on Nov 15, 2016, Mr Naseem went into polling booths with union council chairmen to check the votes before they were cast.
She said the PML-N influenced union council chairmen to vote in favour of its candidates even though, according to the rules, there was open balloting and Mr Naseem had no authority to check the votes.
She said she, along with Ms Tanveer, brought the case to the ECP and finally received a verdict against the PML-N’s corruption. She insisted that the commission disqualify the mayor.
However, Mr Naseem said the commission did not disqualify him or the other RMC members, but set aside the elections for the reserved seats and the mayor. He said: “The lawyers will file the petition on Thursday and after getting a court order, Iwill resume office.”
He said before going to the election commission, the petitions went to the LHC Rawalpindi bench and their plea was dismissed. They then went to the commission and did not inform them that the court had rejected their plea.
After the ECP’s verdict was released, 40 union council chairmen gathered at the RMC to pass a resolution expressing confidence in the mayor. They said party and RMC members would stand with the mayor as he did not influence the union council chairmen and they followed the party discipline and voted for candidates nominated by the PML-N.
The PML-N won 40 union councils in the 2015 local government elections. The PPP won three seats, PTI won two and the Awami Muslim League won one.
PPP City president Babar Jadoon told Dawn the election commission’s decision had created confusion. “The commission did not disqualify the mayor and the members, but asked to refresh the election process while declaring the seats vacant, and again Sardar Naseem will be elected mayor and the same members will come back as the PML-N has a majority in the house,” he said.
He said time and public money would be wasted by RMC members on re-election, adding that the PML-N will also receive a stay order.
Yasin, Aamir. ECP unseats Rawalpindi mayor, 17 RMC members. Dawn, April 27, 2017.