The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday released a report on the February by-poll in Daska’s NA-75 constituency.

The report concluded that election officials, police, and the local administration failed to play their “designated role in a requisite manner and were found [to be] puppets in the hands of their unlawful masters” during the by-election, reports Dawn.

A by-poll was held in the constituency in April, with PML-N’s Syeda Nosheen Ifti­khar winning the contest by securing 110,075 votes against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Ali Asjad Malhi, who had bagged 93,433 votes.

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“The report — submitted by Punjab Joint Election Commissioner Saeed Gul to the Election Commission of Pakistan secretary — said the statement given by the 20 Presiding Officer (POs) who were forcefully taken to some unknown places invoked the point that … facts were being concealed by the PO.”

“In fact, their manipulated replies in the investigation of [them] being taken to unknown places and any interaction or forceful approach by someone further aired the suspicion that they were vindicated or backed up by someone,” the report says.

“Statement of SAPOs exposed that one PO willingly took the tamper-evident bag with him in a shopping bag.”

“Circumstantial evidence, written statements of some POs, SAPOs, most of the drivers and very few of the police personnel and CDR data from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority clearly prove that aforesaid POs, under some planned scheme, left their respective polling stations in private vehicles and reached Sialkot by staying first at Qila Kalar Wala Police Station/ Satra Police Station, office of the DSP, Pasrur, and Mundeke, etc. around after nearly 08:30pm,” read the report.

“They remained at some unknown building situated at Shahabpura/Ugoke Road near Zohra Hospital [in Sialkot] for more than seven hours and after that, they were transported in the police security to [the] office of the RO at Jaisarwala,” it said.

“Before reaching their destination, all the POs were shifted in police vans from a Toyota Hiace.”

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The inquiry also found that 17 POs had requested an exemption from by-election duties. When the requests were scrutinised, “it was surprisingly revealed that handwriting on all TCS (Tranzum Courier Service) envelopes [containing the requests] was same that created further doubts”.

“In light of the afore-described facts, it can be conclusively determined that the activities of POs were suspicious, they became puppets in the hands of their controlling authority and even the replies submitted by them in response to the allegations of this maligned act were completely stereotyped and deceptive,” it concluded. “Hence, the role of presiding officers carries an obvious proportion in the whole conspiracy that [made] the by-election a dead duck.”

“These disclosed facts convincingly take us to the point that [the] mishap in the by-election not just involves the negligence or maladministration of the POs. It was a preplanned scam that could not be possible without the reinforcement from their controlling departments while they also paved the path for other persons’ involvement in this wicked game,” the report said.