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ECP accepts Imran’s apology in ballot secrecy case

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday accepted an apology by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan in the case against violating the secrecy of ballot. 

The ECP also released the notification of the PTI chairman’s victory in the NA-53 Islamabad constituency, which was withheld due to the violation of the code of conduct.

Imran Khan, who is poised to become prime minister, had submitted a signed affidavit through his counsel Babar Awan offering an unconditional apology for violating the secrecy of ballot, stating he didn’t willingly violate the code of conduct.

He pleaded with the four-member bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza to withdraw its notice.

Imran said he believes in the rule of law and the constitution. He explained there were a lot of people at the polling station during election day, and a voting screen had fallen down, therefore he had to stamp his ballot in front of people.

Imran was facing two cases –  one regarding use of offensive language against the opponents and the other pertaining to violating of ballot secrecy.

In the first case, the ECP has accepted apology of Imran as well as former National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Pervez Khattak and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman for using foul language.

“Do not use such language in the future,” the ECP bench headed by the chief election commissioner warned the four leaders while accepting their apologies.

Hearing the the case of ballot secrecy violation, the ECP rejected the apology letter signed by Imran’s counsel Babar Awan on behalf of his client. The PTI chief cited personal commitments as a reason for absence from hearing today.

Earlier in the day, PTI counsel Babar Awan appeared before the ECP and said the case shouldn’t be dragged further as the PTI chief had already tendered apology for the violation, which was not intentional.

However, the chief election Commissioner Sardar Raza Khan said a detailed reply must be submitted to the ECP.

On July 26, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) issued a notice to Imran Khan for violating the secrecy of ballot. While earlier on July 19, the ECP had taken a suo moto notice after Imran Khan used the term ‘donkey’ for PML-N members who were going to receive Nawaz Sharif at the airport on the eve of his arrival.

“And whoever will go to receive him will be a donkey (fool),” PTI chief had said. The remarks of Imran instigated a trade of barbs between the members of PML-N and PTI. Following a series of incendiary exchange of words, the ECP summoned Imran Khan but he couldn’t appear owing to his election campaign.

In another case, Mr Khan, flanked by his friends and supporters, including Zulfi Bokhari, openly cast his vote in the NA-53 constituency where he was contesting the election against former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party’s Syed Sibtul Haider, brother of former Senate chairman Syed Nayyar Boikhari.

Instead of going behind the voting screen to cast his vote in private, the PTI chief preferred to publicly stamp the ballot paper placing it on the table of the election officer, with TV cameras filming him. And to everyone’s surprise, the presiding officer and other polling staff did not object to the violation.

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