• PTI chief says country’s ‘biggest political party’ doesn’t trust ECP chief
• Terms general elections only way out of political crisis
• PTI nominates Elahi for Punjab CM

ISLAMABAD: A day after his party’s resounding victory in the by-elections held in 20 constituencies of Punjab, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan demanded snap polls to end the political turmoil in the country, while also calling for the resignation of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, saying that the “the biggest party of Pakistan [PTI] does not trust” the head of the commssion.

In his address to celebrate the party’s victory on 15 out of 20 seats, the former prime minister targeted the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and its chief. He said the CEC was “incompetent” and “dishonest” and reiterated the allegation that he had joined hands with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

“We don’t trust the ECP head and he has been imposed on us,” Mr Khan said. “We don’t have confidence in you. … you are a biased person in cahoots with a political party,” he said while addressing the CEC.

Mr Khan also alluded to “eight separate cases” wherein the ECP had “ruled against the PTI before its decisions were overruled by the courts”. He added that the ECP chief had only acted against the PTI and referred to Daska by-elections to corroborate his claim.

“ECP did not take action against [PPP leader] Yousuf Raza Gilani’s son, who bribed people [during Senate election], and remained mum over the use of money in Senate elections. In Sindh, violations were reported during the local bodies election but ECP did not react,” the former premier added.

Mr Khan, in spite of the massive win, expressed reservations over the alleged use of state machinery to manipulate elections on July 17. He added that police and local administration harassed PTI candidates and supporters in the run-up to polls. “[During the by-polls] they used all the tactics to defeat us. Police threatened our people. Officers acted as workers of PML-N,” he claimed, adding that Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz had no right to use the police in such a way.

Mr Khan added if future elections were conducted the way Punjab by-elections were held on Sunday then that would further exacerbate the political crisis. “The election held in Punjab will not address the issues [despite clean sweep by PTI] because only general elections can bring economic and political stability in Pakistan,” Imran Khan claimed.

‘Public mandate cannot be stolen’

The PTI chief referred to his thumping victory and said it was a clear message to those who attempt to steal public mandate and “take decisions about the future of Pakistan behind closed doors”. “They should not remain mistaken [anymore],” he added.

According to Mr Khan, people did not come out in droves to take part in the by-polls as he attributed their “zeal” to his party’s drive for ‘real freedom’.

Mr Khan, who was sent packing following a no-trust vote in parliament earlier this year, alleged that an “artificial political crisis” was created in the country even though Pakistan was progressing after 17 years and most economic indicators were positive.

Meanwhile, the PTI’s core committee nominated Chaudhry Parvez Elahi as the candidate for the office of chief minister of Punjab. The meeting was chaired by PTI chairman Imran Khan and attended by senior leaders of party.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2022

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