Pakistan's Prime Minister-in-waiting Imran Khan today tendered an unconditional written apology to the election commission for violating the secrecy of the ballot, removing the last possible hurdle in his swearing-in next week. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), in a 3-1 vote, accepted the apology submitted by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairperson. It also ordered the issuance of notification for his victory in Islamabad's NA-53 constituency where he stamped the ballot paper publicly instead of going behind the voting screen. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza disagreed with the ECP's Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa members, who were in favour of accepting the apology.
Khan's counsel Babar Awan submitted the unconditional written apology before the commission on behalf of the PTI chief during the hearing held by a four-member bench headed by Raza as the ECP had sought a signed apology from Khan for violating the electoral code of conduct. In his written reply, Khan mentioned that he values the ECP as well as the electoral rules. He said that on July 25, he entered an overcrowded polling station, without any companions, to cast his vote, Dawn news reported. "I was told to put my ballot on a table and stamp it when I asked the staffers present there about where to mark the ballot," the report quoted Khan as telling the ECP.
He added that the media recorded footage of him without his consent while he was casting his vote, and that he had not intended to violate the law. The commission yesterday rejected the response submitted by his counsel Awan who had sought an end to the case and requested the ECP to issue the notification for Khan's victory from NA-53 Islamabad constituency. The suo motu case against Khan was heard after the ECP took notice of him publicly stamping the ballot paper in NA-53 Islamabad constituency, instead of going behind the voting screen to cast his vote in secrecy. According to the reply by Khan's counsel, photos of Khan's ballot were taken without his permission and the curtain, used around the ballot for secrecy, had fallen due to the crowd inside the polling booth.
Imran won the NA-53 seat by defeating former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, bagging 92,891 votes in contrast to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader's 44,314 votes. The electoral body has withheld the notification of his success from the constituency in view of the pending case. According to the election act, a person can be given a six-month jail sentence and/or fine of Rs 1,000 for not casting his/her vote in secrecy. On July 30, the ECP had sought a written reply from Khan, who has been nominated by the PTI as the next Prime Minister after the party emerged as the largest in the National Assembly in the election. He is expected to take oath of office of the Prime Minister of Pakistan sometime next week. The 65-year-old cricketer-turned-politician had contested from five constituencies and had won from all of them. But the ECP has only granted him temporary permission to take oath as a Member of the National Assembly, pending the outcome of the case of violation of electoral code of conduct.