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SC orders verification of votes by army, FC

06 December, 2012

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ISLAMABAD: Despite opposition by MQM's leadership, the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to seek Pakistan Army and Frontier Constabulary's (FC) help regarding door-to-door verification process of electoral rolls in Karachi.

Several major political parties, including the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), had expressed concerns regarding the "illegal shift" of 2.7 millions voters from Karachi to other areas of the country. They had requested the SC to carry out a proper and complete door-to-door verification process of electoral rolls in Karachi.

A three-member SC bench, consisting of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, on Wednesday heard petitions filed by different political parties, seeking verification of voter lists in Karachi.

Justice Azmat Saeed, authoring the 24-page judgement, ruled that in view of the peculiar security situation in Karachi, such a verification must be carried out by ECP with the help and assistance of the Pakistan Army and FC.

The court said that in a situation when life and property of people is not protected, "how electors will come forward and co-operate with the staff of election department… and there is every likelihood of illegalities taking place".

According to the judgement, voters should not be transferred from one area to another without their consent, adding that it is up to citizens as to where they want to cast their votes.

"An accurate electoral roll is sine qua non for holding free, fair and transparent elections, which is not only command of the constitution but also a fundamental right of citizens," the judgement read. The court ruled that it is clear that electoral rolls of Karachi are required to be revised by ECP in exercise of powers conferred upon it under Article 219 of the constitution read with Electoral Rolls Act, 1974, "to achieve the object, which is to be ensured by the commission in terms of Article 218 of the constitution".

"There can be no escape from the fact that a free, fair, just and transparent election is the very heart of our democratic system, as envisaged by the constitution", the judgement read. The court observed that Karachi has a peculiar security situation and "detailed stock of the same has been taken by this court in the case of Watan Party v Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2011 SC 997)".

Regarding the MQM's counsel objection to maintainability of petitions, the court declared that proceedings under Article 184(3) are not limited to "adversarial proceedings to be initiated by a wronged litigant seeking redressal of his individual grievance".

Meanwhile, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim said on Wednesday that the commission was ready for door-to-door verification of voters in Karachi with the help of army.

In a statement, he said the correction of voter lists in Karachi was imperative and the Supreme Court's decision regarding the verification of voter lists in the city was "positive".

The CEC said the meeting of the Election Commission of Pakistan had been called on Friday, adding that any measure which helps improve the electoral process would be welcomed.


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