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PPP-PML-N called for inquiry on RTS

04 August, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Both the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have called the proposed inquiry commission on the Result Transmission System (RTS) a mere eyewash, claiming that its terms of reference (ToR) are vague and fall short of addressing the core issue — did the system really crash or not?

“The letter of the Election Commission purported to be under Article 220, read with Article 218(3), Constitution, 1973, to the Secretary, Cabinet Division, to constitute an Inquiry Committee with reference to and pertaining with the failure of RTS on the 25th July 2018, is an attempt at a whitewash and is rejected”, former Senate chairman and PPP leader Senator Mian Raza Rabbani said in a statement issued on Friday.

Mr Rabbani argued that the terms of the investigation were ambiguous at best, and did not touch the real issues involved in the failure of the system. He said that the failure of the RTS had brought into question the reliability of the entire election itself — a process that has already been marred by allegations of rigging, both pre-poll and poll day.

Mr Rabbani said that the proposed terms of the probe made no mention of the controversy generated by the statement of the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), in which it claimed that the system remained functional.

“The seriousness of the issue at hand requires that the question of the failure of the RTS or otherwise be inquired into by the Committee of the Whole of the Senate in the upcoming session,” he added.

PML-N information secretary Senator Mushahidullah Khan also endorsed Mr Rabbani’s views and said that the proposed inquiry commission with its equivocal ToR would serve no purpose. In fact, he added, the investigation was set up to be nothing more than a bureaucratic cover-up strategy.

He said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was indirectly responsible for the RTS controversy as it saw everything unfold during election day, but did not exercise its authority to intervene.

“It had in fact abdicated its authority and thus in a way became partner in crime,” he added.

The PML-N senator said that the terms of the investigation should specifically mention — as a stated goal of the inquiry — that the commission would find out if the RTS broke down or it was deliberately not used for a certain amount of time. And, most importantly why?

Mr Khan argued that the ECP must first conduct an inquiry to see how the vote counting process had been completed in the absence of polling agents. He also criticised the ECP for what he called the role of a silent spectator over the recent evidence of ballot papers being found in rubbish bins in Karachi. He said ballot papers had also been found by students in their desks as they returned to school — most of them with stamps voting in favour of the PML-N, PPP and Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal candidates.

He also pointed to some videos that had gone viral on social media, showing individuals in uniform involved in the counting process. He said the ECP’s role had become questionable in the 2018 elections as it had surrendered its administrative authority.

A senior ECP official, when contacted, rejected the allegations against commission as baseless and said that the ECP was serious in finding out what had gone wrong.

He said the results were pouring in at a quick pace till 11pm on election day, when the system started slowing down — ultimately coming to a standstill.

“We are not accusing Nadra or anybody. It might be a problem of connectivity or some other technical issue,” he noted.

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