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Mohammad Afzal Khan
Mohammad Afzal Khan

ISLAMABAD: The prevailing stalemate between the government and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf was jolted on Sunday night when a former official of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) – who was directly involved in the preparations for and execution of the general elections of 2013 – came out in support of Imran Khan’s allegations of electoral rigging.

Mohammad Afzal Khan, who also goes by the name of Afzal Qadhafi, appeared on the ARY News show ‘Khara Such’, hosted by Mubasher Lucman and alleged that the general elections were ‘massively rigged’ and pointed the finger squarely at former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and retired Justice Riaz Ahmed Kiani, the ECP member from Punjab.

Mr Afzal was the additional secretary at the ECP from 2012 until his retirement just after the elections in May last year. He began his career as a journalist with the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan in 1979 and served there until 1996. He then joined the ECP as director of Public Relations, where he worked until 2003.

He was appointed the NWFP information secretary the next year, but returned to the ECP as the provincial election commissioner for the same province from July 2008 to March 2010. In April 2010, he took charge as a joint secretary at ECP headquarters in Islamabad.

Afzal Khan says Fakhru Bhai remained ‘a silent spectator’; ‘those involved applied lot more than 35 punctures’

The post was re-designated in January 2012 and Mr Afzal was made a director general, a position he retained until his elevation to his penultimate post. It is not clear what made him keep quiet for over 14 months since his retirement.

Mr Afzal alleged that the chief justice had interfered in the ECP’s mandate by appointing returning officers (ROs), but managed to cover up his wrongdoings by influencing the erstwhile Chief Election Commissioner, retired Justice Fakharuddin G. Ebrahim.

“To save his skin, the CJP ordered Fakhru Bhai to submit an application seeking the apex court’s assistance in appointing ROs,” Mr Afzal revealed.

Referring to the scandal around the 35 punctures that Imran Khan often talks about, Mr Afzal alleged that those involved in fixing the elections had applied a lot more than ‘35 punctures’.

“The chief election commissioner was a silent spectator while Justice Kiani played a major role. He is the man who tarnished the image of the ECP,” he said, adding that, “Everyone, myself included, was involved in the rigging process in one way or the other.”

To a query, he said that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan should be asked who told him that votes polled in the 2013 elections were unverifiable.

Talking about the role of election tribunals, the former ECP additional secretary claimed that these too were used to cover up rigging.

“(The tribunals) have 60 days to decide an election petition, but 14 months have passed and hundreds of petitions are still lying unheard. What does that mean?”

These allegations are not new. Indeed, former ECP secretary Kanwar Dilshad had made similar claims, while Mr Imran Khan – in a press conference held before his long march left Lahore for Islamabad –raised similar allegations. However, this is the first time an ECP member involved with the electoral process in 2013 had come out in support of these claims.

Former Justice Riaz Kiani denied the allegation. He told DawnNews Mr Afzal was disgruntled because he had been refused an extension of service, and was making these ‘outlandish’ claims to get back at him for that.

“I will hold a press conference tomorrow to issue a detailed response to the allegations levelled by Mr Afzal. There are still corruption cases against him pending with the ECP and I will ensure he is duly punished,” Justice Kiani said.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014