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NA-125 rigging case: SC sets aside tribunal verdict against Saad Rafique

LAHORE: The Supreme Court has annulled the 2015 verdict of election tribunal which ordered re-election in Lahore’s NA-125 – the seat won by PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique.

A two-member bench of apex court led by by Sheikh Azmat Saeed while accepting the petition of Saad Rafique ruled that irregularities did not occur in the constituency during general elections 2013.

Rafique had challenged the verdict of election tribunal’s judge Javed Rasheed who had annulled results of the NA-125 election and ordered a re-poll on the seat won by him.

A three-member bench headed by then Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali had suspended de-seating of Rafique and ordered re-election in NA-125 in May 2015. Later, the decision on his plea was reserved on March 19 after conclusion of proceedings.

The former Railways Minister had secured 123,416 votes while his opponent Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) Hamid Khan had obtained 84,495 votes from NA-125 constituency.

Khan had challenged Rafique’s victory, alleging that the PML-N candidate had rigged the elections, and a large number of bogus votes were cast in his favour. He had requested the tribunal to declare the election null and void and announce re-election in the constituency.

The PTI has launched a national campaign calling for the investigation into allegations of rigging and staged a 126-day sit-in protest in front of the parliament in 2014.

The party claimed that the results were changed in at least four constituencies — including Rafique’s — through fraud.

A judicial commission was formed in April 2015 under the Supreme Court chief justice to investigate rigging in elections throughout the country. The commission had asked political parties to provide evidence.

The three-judge commission, headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, had held 39 sittings and completed the hearing on July 3.

The commission — constituted under a presidential ordinance on April 3 after months of tug of war between the PTI and the PML-N — had commenced proceedings on April 9. It recorded testimonies of 69 witnesses, including politicians, government and judicial officers and journalists.

The commission in its 237-page report said despite some lapses on part of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) “the 2013 general elections were in large part organised and conducted fairly and in accordance with the law.”

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