ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has accepted PML-N candidate Miftah Ismail’s request for a recount in the NA-249 by-poll. It directed leaders of political parties who had contested the by-election to reach the office of the returning officer (RO) at 9am on May 6 (Thursday) for the recount. Ismail has alleged that presiding officers from 34 polling stations did not WhatsApp the results. According to a notification by the ECP the hearing will be held on May 4. Notices have been sent to all respondents. Ismail said that the party “did not receive results from more than 30 polling stations”. “We have serious concerns about the behaviour of some presiding officers,” he added. Ismail had written a letter to the chief election commissioner seeking a vote recount in NA-249. The PML-N has also requested the ECP to conduct a forensic audit of the votes in the constituency. In his letter, Ismail wrote that presiding officers from 34 polling stations did not sent results via WhatsApp. He said the party ‘did not receive results from more than 30 polling stations’. “We have serious concerns about the behaviour of some presiding officers,” he added. He claimed that a number of Form 45 were not signed and that the counting of votes on the Form 45 given to the party was different from the forms issued by the returning officer (RO), which were not provided to them. He further claimed in the letter that the RO did not provide the polling station-wise result summary to the party and that he did not provide a receipt of the time the results were received via WhatsApp. Ismail asked the CEC to stop the ECP from finalising the results and order a recount of votes in all polling stations of NA-249. PPP leader Saeed Ghani, meanwhile, said the PML-N should apply to the ECP for a vote recount and use its legal right, just as the PPP will use its legal right. The PPP had secured victory in the NA-249 by-election held on Thursday, with unofficial results showing a close contest between the PML-N and PPP in the final count. PPP’s Abdul Qadir Mandokhel had bagged 16,156 votes to win the seat, followed by PML-N’s Miftah Ismail who secured 15,473 votes. Meanwhile, the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) has reported 143 violations of election laws during the NA-249 by-elections in Karachi. “On election day, FAFEN’s trained citizen observers reported 143 violations, of which 55 related to the presence of party camps in the polling stations’ surroundings,” a report by the organization said. “In 11 instances, the polling staff did not allow voters to cast votes and sent them back,” the report said, adding that at 19 polling stations, the observers saw that Covid-19 SOPs were not implemented at all. However, the ECP had ensured strict compliance to the Covid-19 SOPS overall, the report noted. “The other 58 instances of violations pertained to procedural irregularities, mainly in voting and counting processes. On average, the observers reported 1.3 violations per polling station,” it said. The by-election saw a substantial decline in voter turnout, mainly due to the hot weather and Ramadan, the detailed report said. “Despite a competitive campaign, the poll recorded a turnout of 21.6 percent of registered voters – dropping from 40 percent reported for the constituency during General Elections 2018,” it noted. The FAFEN observers had asked voters how satisfied they were with the voting process, at which voters outside 98 polling stations – 18 men’s, 17 women’s, and 53 combined – expressed their satisfaction. “In contrast, voters outside the remaining polling stations said they were partially satisfied,” the FAFEN report said. The observers found election material in enough quantities at all of the observed polling stations, except for two incidents of unauthorised individuals going behind the secrecy screens at two polling stations, it said. “There were no other incidents that compromised voters’ secrecy. Except for two cases, the observers did not see party workers persuading voters inside the polling stations,” the report said. FAFEN observers reported the polling process was generally well organised at the observed polling stations. Nearly 84% (94) of the monitored polling stations had polling booths in separate rooms. “However, around 18 polling stations – five each male and female and eight combined – housed more than one booth in a single room,” the report said.