LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz on Saturday demanded ‘legal action’ against Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar in the light of the findings of an inquiry report by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on irregularities in the Daska by-poll.
The inquiry report proved the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government indulged in vote stealing, the opposition party said, calling the ruling party “champions of rigging”.
However, the PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb questioned why the report was ‘incomplete’ and why it ‘shied away’ from clearly fixing responsibility on the real culprits. At the same time she said the report proved without a shadow of a doubt that Imran Khan, who according to her was himself a product of election rigging, was directly involved in rigging the Daska by-election.
“At the behest of the premier, the chief minister, ministers and others committed an organised rigging in the Daska by-poll. They should be made accountable and punished,” she said. “We demand that all those responsible for rigging in the Daska by-poll should be made accountable. Imran Khan and Usman Buzdar are directly responsible for rigging, therefore, legal action should be initiated against them,” she said.
Warns against scapegoating anyone
The PML-N information secretary was of the opinion that a precedent be set so that nobody dared to commit such blatant desecration of public vote. Punishing only those who had followed the heinous orders would be meaningless if those who had issued such orders were spared, she said. “Without this comprehensive action true justice would not be delivered,” she said.
While addressing a press conference, former speaker of the National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq and former minister for railways Saad Rafique, both belonging to the PML-N, said the Daska report had established that the PTI government had stolen votes.
Mr Rafique said the PTI that used to accuse others of rigging in fact indulged itself in this practice, as it did not believe in free and fair elections. “Is there anything left for the PTI leadership to say after the Daska report that has exposed its rigging?” he asked.
The former minister expressed the apprehension that planning was being done to rig the next general elections through electronic voting machines (EVMs), just as the 2018 general elections had been rigged with so-called errors in the Results Transmission System (RTS) to install the PTI government.
Mr Sadiq said the government would commit constitutional violations if it implemented its proposed election reforms ‘unilaterally’. “People will not tolerate it if the government tries to pass the use of EVMs in the joint session of parliament,” he warned.
The inquiry report compiled by the Punjab Joint Election Commissioner on Friday exposed those responsible for the saga of 20 presiding officers’ disappearance during the February by-election in Daska and found that election officials and government functionaries acted as “puppets in the hands of their unlawful masters”.
The report not only indicated that they did not play their designated roles in the requisite manner but also identified Sialkot Colleges Deputy Director Mohammad Iqbal Kaloya for his involvement in the meetings at Daska’s Assistant Commissioner’s House, which were meant for manipulating the election process.
Former special assistant to the chief minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Ali Abbas, Zeeshan Javed, Asif Hussain, Mohammad Awais and some other persons attended the meetings, according to the inquiry report.
The fact-finding inquiry was launched after the Daska by-poll was marred by rigging, violence and disappearance of 20 presiding officers (POs). The ECP subsequently withheld the results and ordered re-election in the NA-75 constituency.
The report also found police officers and officials played an absurd role in the by-election. It not only identified their failure in providing protection to the staff and to the polling material, but also questioned if the police conspired, maligned and consequently annulled the whole by-election. “After an analysis of various statements of the inquiry proceedings, it could be induced that the police were either under the influence of a constant force that guided them or they deliberately remained blind to whatever was happening around them,” it said.
Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2021