An apology and 25,000 thumb impressions could not save Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidate Waheeda Shah, who was disqualified by election authorities for slapping polling officials during last month’s by-polls. Her party, however, appeared unconvinced, and expressed concern over the decision.

In its verdict announced, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) imposed a two-year ban on Shah from taking part in elections and nullified the result of a by-poll that took place for a Sindh provincial assembly seat PS-53. The incident, recorded on camera, took place at a polling station in Tando Mohammad Khan.

The ECP also asked the inspector-general police Sindh to take action against DSP Irfan Shah who was present with the candidate when the incident took place. Three jury members voted in favour of the verdict, while two opposed it, said Mohammad Afzal Khan, spokesperson for the election commissioner after the announcement of the verdict.
Three commission members from Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan voted in favour while the member from Sindh and the chief election commissioner, Justice (retd) Hamid Ali Mirza voted against it.

Shah has the right to appeal and the order can be challenged in the Supreme Court, an ECP official said. Party’s provincial leadership and Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah said that PPP voters have expressed concern over the election commission’s decision.
“We have not yet decided what to do about it, but will consult with constitutional expert if the decision can be challenged in the apex court,” he said at a reception in Karachi.

The chief minister was seconded by Sindh Minister for Local Bodies Agha Siraj Durrani who said that Shah had “only slapped the staff.”
Even though [Shah’s] actions are wrong, the law should also apply to all other offenders who had used violence in polling stations during elections, Durrani said.

Meanwhile, dozens of female PPP supporters in Hyderabad protested against the verdict and staged a sit-in at the Hyderabad-Badin Road, blocking it for two hours. Some voters also held a press conference at the Hyderabad press club in Shah’s favour. The PPP, on its part, has called for a strike in Shah’s constituency, Tando Muhammad Khan.

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