I am being punished for Returning Officers' failure: Saad Rafique

Source:  Dawn.com Published in Current Affairs on Monday, May 4, 2015

LAHORE: Deflecting all charges, Khawaja Saad Rafique said Monday that an election tribunal's decision to order re-election in NA-125 constituency was against the presiding and residing officers of the constituency, and that runner-up PTI candidate Hamid Khan had "failed" to prove rigging.

The PML-N leader was holding a press conference soon after an election tribunal in Lahore ordered re-election in NA-125 constituency which was won by Rafique during the May 2013 general election.

The Tribunal's one-page verdict said that ballot bags had been opened with a sharp object and records had been tampered with. It also found that on average, each person had cast six votes each.

A visibly relaxed Rafique refused to acknowledge the tribunal's rigging verdict, instead picking on a technicality in the judge's decision.

"The tribunal's decision proves that there was no rigging. Even though the judge could have said that rigging had taken place, he did not explicitly mention it," Rafique asserted.

He added that the tribunal judge's decision may result in the disqualification of the Residing Officer(s) involved.

"If Returning Officers are to be blamed for malpractice, then why am I and my voters being punished?" he lamented.
Hamid Khan's lawyer had also contended that Rafique paid one of the residing officers Rs20 million to rig the elections, to which the PML-N leader responded: "I don't want to start a blame-game but Imran Khan says a lot of lies. So, if Hamid Khan lies once, I shouldn't mind".

Rafique said the decision to approach the Supreme Court with regards to challenging the tribunal's verdict was something he could not take without consulting party members. He added that he was ready to contest the elections again.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif declared the verdict a blow for the government and said the matter would be taken to the Supreme Court.

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