ECP ‘modification’ of poll-related records raises questions

  • Data on 41 national and provincial seats stored on Google Drive “edited” by the commission for the past week
  • Form 45s for 14 places in Lahore remained missing till July 3; official says it could be an ‘honest mistake’

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) recently “adjusted” the results of at least 41 national and provincial assembly constituencies in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa by updating Form 45 stored on its official Google Drive.

Although it is not clear what modifications were made to the documents, the move has raised questions about the transparency of the election process, especially at a time when several disputes have been brought before election tribunals for adjudication.

Form 45 is a vital record of the election process as it contains key information about the polling station and the number of ballots and is signed by the presiding officer at each polling station. Form 47 is a provisional consolidated result prepared by the relevant officer.

The revisions to the election data seemingly came in the backdrop of a report by NGO Pattan-Coalition 38 which claimed that forms for more than a dozen constituencies were not available on the ECP website. The report, published on July 3, was dismissed as “baseless” by the Election Commission.

However, an independent review of the officially uploaded data by Dawn revealed that the ECP’s claim was incorrect.

Data available on the ECP’s Google Drive – which it used to upload information related to the 2024 general elections – on July 3 shows that Form 45s to 14 provincial assembly constituencies in Lahore were missing. In their place, Form 46 was uploaded to fill the gap.

An examination of the ECP Google Drive on July 3 also revealed that about 50 Form 45s were missing for NA-125 constituency in Lahore.

But that started to change the very next day. On July 4 and 5 – as per the edit date visible on Google Drive – the ECP added the remaining forms for NA-125 as well as 14 other provincial assembly constituencies in Lahore. These included PP-146, PP-148, PP-150, PP-151, PP-154, PP-156, PP-159, PP-160, PP-162, PP-164, PP-166, PP-170 , PP-172 and PP-173.

Apart from Punjab Chief Minister Maryan Nawaz’s PP-159 constituency, these seats also included PP-164 (Lahore), a seat vacated by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, and PP-150 bagged by Aleem Khan of the Istehkam-i-Pakistan party.

Apart from these Lahore constituencies, the ECP has also edited the files of other 26 national and provincial assembly constituencies in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) where Form 45 has already been uploaded.

From Punjab, 10 constituencies included NA-99, NA-101, NA-103 and NA-104 (Faisalabad). In all four, PML-N candidates lost to PTI-backed candidates. Prominent among the winners was Sahibzada Hamid Raza, head of the Sunni Ittehad Council, who bagged NA-104.

The two seats in Lahore where data was allegedly manipulated included NA-118, where Hamza Shehbaz won against PTI’s Aliya Hamza Malik, and NA-121, where PML-N’s Rohail Asghar lost to independent candidate Wasim Qadir.

Similarly, two constituencies from Okara, NA-136 and NA-138, and one seat each from Layyah and Taunsa also witnessed some updates.

In NA-181 (Layyah), PML-N’s Sahibzada Faizul Hasan lost to SIC’s Ambar Majeed. In NA-183 (Taunsa), PML-N candidate suffered defeat from PTI-backed Khawaja Sheeraz Mehmood.

Likewise, there were eight provincial seats where the data appeared to have been modified as well. These seats include PP-22 (Chakwal), PP-23 (Talagang), PP-108 (Faisalabad), PP-186 and 187 (Okara), PP-197 (Pakpattan) and PP-213 (Multan).

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the ECP has reportedly updated the data in eight national and provincial constituencies, including NA-35, which was bagged by former minister Sheryar Afridi from Kohat. These seats include NA-2, NA-3 and NA-35, PK-5, PK-7, PK-8, PK-9 and PK-10, all won by PTI-backed candidates.

‘honest mistake’

Dawn approached the ECP about editing his Google Drive folder and uploading Form 45 almost five months after the polls, at a time when the results were months in the making and some of them were being scrutinized before the election tribunals.

However, the ECP official claimed that if Form 46 was uploaded instead of Form 45 in some folders, it was an honest mistake and there was no ill intention behind it. He insisted that it was not possible to change Form 45 at this stage as copies of these documents were already available with the candidates and some had also gone before the election tribunals.

However, the official was evasive when asked about recent edits to Google Drive folders and could not explain why most of these “honest mistakes” occurred in Lahore constituencies.

It is worth recalling that under Section 95(8) of the Electoral Act 2017, it is mandatory for Returning Officers (ROs) to send signed copies of the Consolidated Statement of Counting Results and the Final Consolidated Result together with the counting results and the Ballot Paper Account received from the Presiding Officers, commission within 24 hours after the consolidation procedure.

Similarly, § 95, paragraph 10 of the Act reads: “After receiving the documents according to paragraph 8, the Commission shall publish them on its website within fourteen days from the day of the vote.”