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ISLAMABAD: On Monday afternoon, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan further raised the political temperatures in the country by sharing his detailed findings on the alleged rigging carried out by the PML-N in May 2013.

As the party had promised, the PTI chief presented an account of the rigging carried out during the general election, identifying a number of those who allegedly made it possible.

Khan named the former Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, former caretaker chief minister Najam Sethi, retired senior judge of the Supreme Court, Khalilur Rehman Ramday, and three senior serving officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as having played a role in the rigging.

Though based on testimonies of individuals who have not so far come forward, the allegations provoked the government into reacting fast and furiously.

Government strikes back

By night, reactions (in the form of denials) came from those accused. Justice Ramday and Mr Sethi denied the charges while talking to news channels and Punjab Election Commissioner Mehboob Anwar addressing a press conference in Karachi. Justice Kiyani, according to his staff, will issue a detailed reply on Tuesday (today).

Around the same time, Prime Minister’s daughter also tweeted that her father would address the nation the next day, which was then confirmed by the government.

Irfan Siddiqui, the prime minister’s adviser explained that the Prime Minister would explain his government’s performance and its stance over the ongoing political situation.

An official of the prime minister office told Dawn that the decision was taken at the Lahore meeting. “The party feels that now that Dr Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan have joined hands against the government, the prime minister should take the people into confidence, before it’s too late,” he said.

Addressing the media outside on a humid afternoon, Mr Khan used cricketing terms to explain the role of the key players who allegedly used their official positions to influence the outcome of the election results. “Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Justice (retired) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry played as the opening batsman for the Sharif brothers, setting the stage for a sweeping election victory in Punjab for them.”

He painted a vivid picture worthy of a thriller in which election cells worked on the quiet, reaching out to junior officials; where personal loyalties mobilised those employed by the state; and nervous politicians and dishonest bureaucrats worked hand in glove to print ballot papers on the side.

But it was a story that appeared to be more than fiction because people were identified.

‘Former CJ was the opening batsman’:

According to Mr Khan, it was on the insistence of the former CJ that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) agreed to appoint judicial officers as returning officers who administratively didn’t fall under the control of the then Chief Election Commissioner, Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim.

Khan claimed that Justice (retd) Riaz Kiyani, who had a former association with the Sharif family, was the ECP member from the Punjab and he allegedly worked in collaboration with the former CJ.

He then explained how the more neutral officials were transferred out.

“The then Punjab election commissioner Mr Tariq Qadri was directed by the ECP to remove my portraits from Lahore as they were in violation of election laws. Mr Qadri pointed out that the PML-N was guilty of the same transgression. He was transferred to Sindh,” Khan said.

Clad in a dark-coloured shalwar kameez and constantly wiping his brow due to the humid weather, Khan told that Mr Qadri had himself explained to him how the pre-poll rigging was managed.

‘The Election cell’

The PTI chief added that in place of Mr Qadri, Justice Kiyani had Mahboob Anwar appointed as the election commissioner of Punjab while Justice (retd) Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday was tasked by the Sharif family to set up an election cell.

According to Khan, Justice Ramday managed everything from behind the scenes such as a reception where some of the ROs were addressed by the former CJ.

“It was Justice Ramday’s idea to have Nawaz Sharif make an early victory speech, in which he asked for a clear majority.”

Mr Khan claimed that as the voting had stopped by then, the PML-N chief was asking the ROs to ensure his clear majority.

But these were not the only culprits in Khan’s account.

‘Stuffing the boxes’

He reserved harsher words for the Punjab Election Commissioner, Mr Anwar, who allegedly, had new ballot papers printed two days before the election - on May 9.

These ballot papers, said the PTI chief, were sent to five divisions of Punjab, comprising 98 National Assembly constituencies.

Mr Anwar continues to be chief election commissioner in Punjab; he is on an extension.

Flanked by Javed Hashmi on the one side and Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Jahangir Tarin on the other, Mr Khan claimed that the ballot papers were printed by private printing presses. “These are the ballot papers which can’t be verified; if this is investigated by an independent inquiry commission, it will prove that rigging took place,” he said.

Mr Khan explained that the party could prove its allegation through eyewitnesses, the testimonies would be provided at the appropriate time and forum, because the witnesses had to be kept safe while the Sharif family was in power.

‘Finance, Home and Education’

Najam Sethi, the former caretaker chief minister, was also accused of being part of the ‘rigging’ as he allegedly transferred around many officers but didn’t touch the people heading education, finance and home who used their respective departments to help the PML-N win the election.

For instance, 100,000 ad hoc teachers were regularised in Punjab shortly before the election; the home secretary ensured the presence of key (or loyal) police officials in key places and the secretary finance ensured that the development projects begun by the PML-N continued to be completed.

Mr Khan claimed that in response of their services, the then secretary finance Tariq Bajwa was appointed Chairman FBR, and secretary home, Shahid Khan, secretary interior in the federal government. Similarly, he said Mr Sethi was awarded the PCB chairmanship while Justice Ramday’s son Mustafa Ramday won the slot of advocate general Punjab, his brother Asad Ramday became an MNA and a niece was given a reserved seat.

Secretary election commission Ishtiaq Ahmad Khan has also been given an extension because of the role he played in May last year, said Mr Khan.

Mr Khan reiterated that his party’s struggle will remain within the parameters of the constitution, adding that true democracy was not possible in Pakistan as long as the Sharif family ran the show and the culprits for May 13 not held accountable.

He also added — ominously — that re-election is the only way forward.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014