Pakistani-born politician banned from British public life

March 19th, 2008 - 5:53 pm ICT by admin  

London, March 19 (IANS) A Pakistani-born Tory councillor in Britain has been found guilty of corruption and vote-rigging in local authority elections held last year, and banned from standing for public office for five years. Councillor Eshaq Khan of Slough, around 20 miles west of London, faces a police inquiry after a special High Court election hearing Tuesday found him guilty of corrupt and illegal practices to secure his election.

Khan, 50, who is described as a respected figure in the Pakistani Kashmiri community in Slough, was stripped of his seat, expelled from the Conservative Party and banned from standing for office for five years.

A by-election is now to be held for the seat.

Suspicions were aroused when Khan, who ran a carpet and furniture business, defeated long-serving Labour Councillor Lydia Simmons by 119 votes last May.

Labour contested the results, pointing out that nearly 450 new names had been added to the voters’ register in the week before the election - and that all of them had voted for Khan.

Faced with an inquiry, Khan and his team then tried to cover up the crime by forging tenancy agreements and statements from bogus voters, and by trying to intimidate a witness, police said.

Investigators found that Khan’s election team had registered fictitious voters at derelict houses.

One team member was described by the judge as a “serial forger” after handwriting experts testified that he alone had filled as many as 198 postal ballot forms.

When Labour began to identify ghost voters, Khan and his team produced forged tenancy agreements, and despatched a man describing himself as a lawyer to the home of a woman who was due to give evidence that the five Kashmir voters registered in her house were fictitious.

The woman failed to turn up in court, saying she was ill.

Two Polish women were accused of lying by Khan’s allies when they said that they knew nothing of the six and seven Kashmiri voters registered at each of their homes.

Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said the Slough fraud “highlights the need for fundamental changes to our electoral system”.

“Electoral fraud is not a trivial matter - it is an affront to the democratic principle of one person one vote,” he said.

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