Federal ministers from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf on Saturday declared victory in the NA-75 by-polls even though the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said that the results may be falsified.
In a statement released earlier today, the ECP said that it suspected results of 20 polling stations had been falsified in the by-election for the NA-75 (Daska) constituency as the PML-N alleged massive rigging.
The commission said results of the NA-75 constituency were received with "unnecessary delay", adding that it tried to contact the presiding officers several times but with no success.
Hours after ECP's statement came to light, Information Minister Shibli Faraz tweeted saying, "Results received by our polling agents in NA-75 Daska suggest we have won the election by over 7000 votes. An election we had lost by over 30000 in the last election."
Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar lashed out at the opposition, stating that the parties accept the results only when they win and reject them when they lose.
"The Pakistan Democratic Movement's (PDM) manifesto seems to be that only those results will be accepted where they are successful. Where they lose, they will start crying foul," he said.
"The PTI has won from NA-75," he said, urging the opposition to "have strength" and accept the public's decision.
Minister for Science and Technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain congratulated PTI candidate Ali Asjad Malhi on "conquering the Daska battle" and demanded the ECP to announce the result "immediately".
"The patience of PTI workers should not be tested," he said in a tweet. "Respect will be for the law, not for [PML-N]."
In another tweet, Fawad said that it is the "first time in Pakistan, an election has been held in which there is no government interference".
"[During] by-elections which were conducted by PPP and PML-N, people used to say that the elections are formal, the government will end up winning. Look at their attitude even now, elections are [termed as] fair where they win [but if] they lose they scream rigging."
NA-75 fell vacant after the demise of PML-N MNA Sahibazada Syed Iftikharul Hassan Shah.
Nine candidates are in the race, and of them, the main candidates are PML-N’s Nousheen Iftikhar Shah and PTI’s Ali Asjad Malhi. According to unofficial results, the PML-N managed to retain the seat.
"The chief election commissioner tried to contact the Punjab inspector general of police, commissioner and deputy commissioner on receiving information from the district returning officer (DRO) and returning officer (RO) so the whereabouts of the presiding officers concerned could be ascertained but received no response," read the statement.
The chief election commissioner also contacted the Punjab chief secretary who assured him that the results would be sent after tracing the 'missing' officers and polling bags but then he too made himself "unavailable", according to the ECP statement. The presiding officers appeared along with the polling bags around six in the morning, the statement said.
"The DRO and RO of the NA-75 (Sialkot) constituency informed [the ECP] that there is a suspicion of falsification in the results from 20 polling stations. Therefore, it is not possible to release the initial results without a complete inquiry. The DRO is sending a complete report on the matter to the Election Commission."
The statement said the ECP had stopped the DRO and RO from announcing the initial results for the by-election and directed them to conduct a complete inquiry and identify those responsible. It also directed the provincial election commissioner and joint provincial election commissioner to reach the office of the DRO and RO so that "[we] can reach the bottom of the matter and records can be completely protected".
"This matter looks like a weakness of the administration and law enforcement agencies," the ECP added.
'Attempt at PML-N's seat'
Meanwhile, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz shared a video of the party's secretary general Ahsan Iqbal and deputy secretary general Ataullah Tarar, claiming that "preparations are being made to attempt to steal the PML-N's already won seat".
"I am present in Daska and it is around 3:45am. The PML-N candidate (Nousheen Iftikhar Shah) is winning. The returning officer has received results from 370 polling stations and seeing the win of the PML-N, the staff and record of 23 polling stations have been made to disappear," Iqbal said in the video.
"When we asked the returning officer, he said he too was helpless. [The returning officer] has made full efforts but is unable to contact the staff and he does not know where they have disappeared. The results of these polling stations have now become suspicious."
Iqbal called on the ECP to separate the results from the 23 polling stations and to conduct a forensic audit of them. He also asked for re-polling in those stations.
"They are holding the results [of this election] to save their dignity after losing. Whose custody [is the missing staff] in? Who has kidnapped them? The nation and we all want an answer," he said.
Separately, the PML-N vice president stressed that "we will not leave you this time vote choron (vote thieves)".
Contradicting the PML-N's claims and terming it a "drama", Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill said Iqbal's video statement was a "clear indication of the PML-N's loss".
He said if re-polling was to be done, then it should also be done for the by-elections in constituencies of Wazirabad and Nowshera (Gujranwala PP-51 and Nowshera PK-63) which the PML-N has won, according to unofficial results.
"We too have objections on these [seats]," Gill said.
Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood claimed that the PML-N levelled allegations of rigging wherever it lost.
"Wherever PMLN wins all is good, wherever it loses, election is rigged. Nowshera, N wins under PTI govt. Wazirabad, N wins, PTI govt. Not a squeak about rigging in both places. Daska, election is tight so shouts of rigging all over," he said in a tweet.
"Those used to fraud cannot take defeat."
The by-election in the NA-75 constituency has been marred by violence. A day earlier, at least two people were killed and three others injured in a firing incident at a polling station in Daska.
One of the victims was reportedly a member of the ruling PTI while the other belonged to the PML-N. A PTI polling agent was also among the injured, according to eyewitnesses and local media.