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> Attock Postal Ballots Conspiracy Charges unfounded but Evidence of Pre-Poll Rigging Found by CGEP Fact Finding Mission
   Attock Pre-Election Fact-finding Mission Report Released
 
CGEP Fact Finding Mission
January 21, 2008
Islamabad


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A Fact-Finding Mission of the Citizens Group on Electoral Process (CGEP) headed by Justice (Retired) Saeed uz Zaman Siddiqui has declared that it has not found any proof of misuse of postal ballots in the forthcoming general election in three National and five Provincial Assembly Constituencies in district Attock.

 
 

The mission which comprised former Governor Sindh Lt. Gen. (Retired) Moeenuddin Haider, former Governor Punjab Shahid Hamid, Senior Journalist and Executive Editor of the News Rahimullah Yusufzai, Gallup Pakistan Chairman Dr. Ijaz Shafi Gilani, PILDAT Executive Director Ahmed Bilal Mehboob and Joint Director Aasiya Riaz, visited Attock on January 15 and held detailed meetings with the District administration, Returning Officers, Candidates of all parties and local media to verify the charges levelled by various candidates about the alleged misuse of local government resources in support of the candidates supported by the District Nazim, Major (Retd.) Tahir Sadiq. The mission found that contrary to the charges that 15000 postal ballots were being readied for casting in favour of District Nazim-supported candidates, 708, 599 and 365 ballot papers were approved for constituencies NA-57, Attock I, NA-58, Attock II and NA-59, Attock III respectively by the concerned Returning Officers. The number of approved ballot papers is apparently considerably higher than the average number of postal ballots cast per constituency (200) in 2002 general election but the total number is still far lower than the candidates opposing District Nazim and the PML-Q alleged.

 
 

The Group, however, discovered that the former Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi had approved extension of all contract employees in the district to 60 years of age on the last day of his Chief Ministership i.e November 20, 2007. The Group also discovered that the total strength of the Attock District Police Force was increased from 900 to 2376 by recruiting 1676 new constables close to the date of announcement of election schedule. Such a large-scale and abrupt increase in the police force may have lowered the standards and has definitely an angle of political patronage close to the election date.

 
 

The Group saw a number of large hoardings and posters of the Pro-Nazim candidates bearing the picture of District Nazim and asking people to vote for the Nazim-supported candidates. Most of such hoardings were put up for Ms. Eman Wasim, district Nazimís daughter and a candidate of National Assembly constituency, NA-57, Attock-I. Other candidates included, Waseem Gulzar, Eman Waseemís husband and son-in-law of the current District Nazim contesting from NA-59 Attock III and Pervaiz Elahi, former Punjab Chief Minister and brother-in-law of the District Nazim contesting from NA-58 Attock II, District Nazim denied any misuse of state resources and claimed that the candidates supporters were putting up hoardings bearing Nazimís pictures to take advantage of Nazimís popularity without his knowledge or consent. The fact finding mission report reveals that upon the Groupís follow-up, the Nazim directed the DCO and the police officers to take down not only all such hoardings bearing his picture but the oversized banners and hoardings as well.

 
 

The Fact Finding Mission also found that three FIRs were lodged by the district police against un-named supporters of Pakistan Peoples Party for allegedly damaging public and private property during protest rallies following the assassination of Mohtarima Benazir Bhutto. Although the DPO informed the mission that no arrest was made as a result of these FIRs, the PPP candidates and their supporters apprehend that the FIRs were registered to blackmail them and to arrest them at the peak of electioneering.

 
 

The Group noted that the district Nazim had completed sizable development works during the past 5 years which was generally acknowledged by the people of Attock district. He was also able to win concessions such as making all contract employees permanent due to his close relations with the former Punjab Chief Minister. His efforts to monopolise the political power through the candidature of his close relatives for all the three National Assembly constituencies in the district is, however, a source of concern, the group noted.

 
 

The Group has called upon the District Coordination Officer, the District Police Officer and other officials of the district administration to adopt strict non-partisanship and asked the District Returning Officer and other returning officers to be extra-vigilant for any violations of electoral laws in view of the unique nature of the district where a former Chief Minister and aspirant for the Prime Ministership is contesting election along with two other close relations of the district Nazim. The Group admired the cooperation extended by all district officials and candidates to the mission in its fact-finding efforts.