Imran declares upcoming polls ‘test of neutrality’ for powers that be

Published July 13, 2022
PTI chief Imran Khan addresses a rally on Tuesday. — DawnNewsTV
PTI chief Imran Khan addresses a rally on Tuesday. — DawnNewsTV

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Tuesday warned the ‘powers that be’ that the only way to get out of the quagmire that the alleged US conspiracy against his government had landed Pakistan into would be to hold free and fair by-elections on July 17, which he termed their “first test” to prove neutrality.

Addressing back-to-back rallies in Bhakkar and Layyah, the former prime minister claimed that the government led by PML-N cannot win by-elections without ‘massive rigging’.

“They could only win elections through rigging and fear,” he told a charged crowd in Layyah and asked them to guard polling booths on the day of voting.

This is not the first time Mr Khan has hinted at alleged manipulation in the run-up to the by-elections on 20 seats in Punjab later this week. He has also accused the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of being in cahoots with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in Punjab.

“Mr X is in Lahore … we know what he has been up to,” Imran Khan again alluded to the mysterious person who is allegedly rigging elections on behalf of the PML-N. He added that ‘Mr X’ has been meeting Maryam Nawaz and Hamza Shehbaz, whereas Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja also “goes and sits in their feet”. They are making efforts to pave way for the victory of the PML-N, the PTI chief alleged.

“I want to send a message to all Pakistanis and those who wield real power... these [PTI supporters] are the people who took to streets for the future of Pakistan… they don’t want to harm their country. The only option to undo the consequences of the conspiracy [against PTI government] is to conduct transparent polls,” Mr Khan said while addressing his supporters in Layyah.

“If attempts are made to rig elections then I am sure Pakistan will face a [political] crisis like Sri Lanka… game will be out of your hands then,” he warned the establishment against possible fallout of rigged polls. Mr Khan said people who cared for Pakistan also wanted free and fair polls to be held and by-elections on July 17 will be “your first test” in this regard.

“I have asked my youth to monitor polling stations on the voting day,” he said, adding that on Sunday everybody will know where the nation stands.

Bhakkar speech

In his Bhakkar rally, the PTI chief made similar rigging allegations, referring to a ‘Mr Y’ who had been sent to Multan by ‘Mr X’ – based in Lahore – to manipulate the upcoming by-elections. “Mr X, I have been told that you have sent Mr Y to Multan to rig the by-election. Mr X and Mr Y, I challenge you that my nation will make you bite the dust and win the polls [on July 17] despite all attempts to manipulate them,” the ousted premier stated.

During the rally, the PTI chief also talked about PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal who was jeered at by a pro-PTI family a few days ago. The family subsequently apologised to the planning minister on Sunday. Mr Khan branded Mr Iqbal “shameless and coward” for “pressuring the family through agencies to tender an apology”. The ex-PM said he would continue calling Iqbal and his leaders “dacoits” as the “incumbent government had used its authority to get reprieve in Rs1.1 trillion corruption cases” by amending the NAB law.

Malik Tahseen Raza in Muzaffargarh also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2022

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