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Imran Khan’s party alleges ‘blatant rigging’ in by-elections

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Islamabad, Apr 23 (PTI) Jailed former Pakistan premier Imran Khan’s party has alleged that “blatant rigging” took place in the recently held by-elections in which the ruling PML-N got the lion’s share, as it announced a plan for countrywide protests, a media report said on Tuesday.

By-elections were held on Sunday to 21 national and provincial assembly seats amidst tight security and suspension of cellular and internet services in specific districts of Punjab and Balochistan to maintain law and order.

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Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif-led ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won at least two national and 10 provincial assembly seats, according to the unofficial results on Monday.

Leaders of 71-year-old Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Monday said that April 21 will be remembered as a “black day” in the history of Pakistan, as “open and blatant violations of law” of a magnitude never observed in the country’s history were witnessed, the Dawn newspaper reported.

“[The] day of election is considered an accountability day, and people cast their votes with great zeal. However, on April 21, open and blatant violations of law were observed. The magnitude of the rigging and violation of law has never been observed in the history of Pakistan,” party Chairman Barrister Gohar Khan said.

“Gates of polling stations were closed, and at some polling stations, more votes were polled than the total registered votes,” Gohar said, addressing a press conference.

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He alleged that the “mandate thieves” resorted to shameful tactics to manipulate the electoral process, including stuffing ballot boxes before voting even began and coercing people as well as officials to rig the by-polls in the presence of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) representatives, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.

Gohar said such actions were unheard of even in the darkest days of dictatorship.

The party urged the ECP to withhold the notifications of results and announced a series of protests starting Friday.

Gohar said that he and party leader Omar Ayub visited various polling stations and witnessed flagrant rigging first-hand.

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He said that even after the electoral watchdog was informed about the rigging incidents in Gujrat, no action had been taken despite 24 hours passing, the report said.

“The Constitution, democracy, and the rule of law were virtually suspended in the country,” he was quoted as saying in the report.

Addressing the press conference, Ayub said that pre-poll rigging began with the suspension of the internet, alleging that Prime Minister Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz did not “believe in transparency”.

On Saturday, the federal government announced that cellular services would remain temporarily suspended in specific districts of Punjab and Balochistan during the by-elections.

Ayub said police officials told them that intelligence agencies were not allowing voters to enter polling stations.

He said that Sunday’s by-elections could not be called transparent as it was a complete farce in which only taxpayers’ money was wasted on a futile exercise.

Claiming that Sharif got fewer votes during the general elections than the candidate contesting on the PML-N ticket in the by-election, Ayub said, “This is beyond comprehension.”

Sharing the party’s plan for protests, he said, “We will start protests, along with other parties, next Friday across the country.”

“‘Then we will hold another protest in Faisalabad, followed by organising a public meeting in Karachi on May 5, and then a series of public meetings will be held across the country,“ the report quoted him as saying.

Highlighting doubts about the top electoral watchdog’s credibility, PTI Chairman Gohar questioned why the ECP didn’t involve returning officers (ROs) and district returning officers from the judiciary.

Two seats each of the National Assembly in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and one seat in Sindh, while twelve seats of the Punjab Assembly and two each of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan assemblies were up for grabs.

Major political parties, including the PML-N, the PTI-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) participated in the by-polls. However, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl of Maulana Fazlur Rehman boycotted the polls.

The general elections were held across the country on February 8 to elect representatives for the National Assembly and four provincial assemblies.

But polls were cancelled for one National Assembly, two Punjab Assembly and one seat of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, respectively. PTI GRS AKJ






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