PM Imran reiterates govt's offer for talks with opposition on electoral reforms

Published May 1, 2021
In this file photo, Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the nation. — DawnNewsTV/File
In this file photo, Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the nation. — DawnNewsTV/File

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday once again invited the opposition to sit down with the government and participate in bringing electoral reforms in order to restore the credibility of local polls.

In a series of tweets, the premier said that after the recent NA-249 Karachi by-poll — won by the PPP by a narrow margin — all parties were "crying foul and claiming rigging".

Read: The NA-249 by-poll laid bare the faults in Pakistan's electoral system

"The same happened in Daska recently and in the Senate elections. In fact, apart from the 1970 election, in every election claims of rigging have raised doubts over the credibility of results," he said.

He said that in 2013, there were 133 disputes of National Assembly constituencies before election tribunals.

"We asked for the examination of the votes of just four constituencies and in all four rigging was established. But it took us a year and a 126-day dharna [sit-in] to get a judicial commission which found over 40 faults in the conduct of the elections.

"Unfortunately, no substantive reforms were put in place. Technology and the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) is the only answer to reclaim the credibility of elections. I invite the opposition to sit with us and select from EVM models we have available to restore the credibility of our elections."

Giving the example of the US presidential election held late last year, the prime minister said that former US president Donald Trump had tried everything to dispute the results.

"But because technology was used in the electoral process, not one irregularity was found. For a year now we have been asking the opposition to cooperate with us and help reform our present electoral system.

"Our government is determined and we will put in place reforms in our electoral system through the use of technology to bring transparency and credibility to our elections and strengthen our democracy," he said.

PML-N pushes for recount

Meanwhile, PML-N Vice president Maryam Nawaz said that if the win was transparent, no political party should have a problem with carrying out a recount.

"The margin for victory is by a few hundred votes and the number of rejected votes is more than this margin. Asking for a recount with a difference of less than five percent is our legal and constitutional right," she said.

Responding to the prime minister, Maryam said: "The party accused of rigging in Daska was yours but the people made you bite the dust TWICE despite your efforts to run away from re-election.

"Your party came last in NA-249, so you need not worry and please don’t try to look relevant. You have been REJECTED over and over again. Step down."

"And please do not try to act smart and use this as a pretext to pressurise the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and escape from the foreign funding case," she said.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif also called for a recount, adding that this was their "constitutional right".

NA-249 by-election

On Friday, the PPP won the NA-249 by-election with a narrow margin while almost all other parties pointed a finger at the ECP that announced the result of the low-turnout poll after a considerable delay.

The result brought the main opposition PML-N and the ruling PTI at the Centre on the same page as far as the transparency of the vote count process is concerned, but the former chose not to target the PPP in the same way as the latter targeted the winning party.

However, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari advised them to furnish proof of wrongdoing in the by-election or stop levelling allegations.

According to unofficial election results, PPP’s Abdul Qadir Mandokhail won the election by securing 16,150 votes. PML-N’s Miftah Ismail was the runner-up with 15,473 votes. Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s Mufti Nazeer Kamalvi was on third position with 11,125 votes, followed by Mustafa Kamal of the PSP (9,227), PTI’s Amjad Afridi (8,922) and Hafiz Mursaleen of the MQM-P (7,511).

Total 77,749 votes were cast and the turnout was 21.54 per cent. The number of rejected votes (731) was higher than the winning margin of 653 votes.

The PML-N and PTI candidates on Friday challenged the results and submitted applications to the returning officer (RO) for recounting, repolling as well as thumb verification of voters.

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