(CLOCKWISE from left) Pedestrians try to squeeze through a crack after containers were placed on major routes into Islamabad’s Red Zone ahead of PTI’s protest against the ECP; PTI workers gather outside the provincial election commission’s offices in Lahore; while, a large contingent of police personnel are deployed outside the commission’s offices in Karachi.—Online / White Star / PPI
(CLOCKWISE from left) Pedestrians try to squeeze through a crack after containers were placed on major routes into Islamabad’s Red Zone ahead of PTI’s protest against the ECP; PTI workers gather outside the provincial election commission’s offices in Lahore; while, a large contingent of police personnel are deployed outside the commission’s offices in Karachi.—Online / White Star / PPI

• PTI chief claims ‘hidden hands’ using ECP to keep democracy in check
• Party holds protests outside ECP offices in major cities

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan on Thursday lashed out at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for its verdict in the prohibited funding case as he termed the decision an attempt by the ruling coalition and the powers-that-be to knock him out on “technical” grounds.

The comments by the former premier came as the PTI held protests outside the offices of the election watchdog across Pakistan to register its protest against the verdict in the prohibited funding case against the erstwhile ruling party and the alleged collusion between the ECP chief and the ruling PML-N and PPP.

Speaking to his supporters who gathered at F-9 Park in Islamabad and the ECP office in Karachi through a video link, Mr Khan alleged that the election commission was “the biggest tool” to control democracy in Pakistan and through this institution ‘hidden hands’ manipulate elections.

According to Imran Khan, “They always use institutions. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was killed because they feared that it would be impossible to control if he took to the streets.”

Mr Khan said the ECP exceeded its domain in the decision against the PTI, adding these efforts were an attempt to “keep the nation enslaved”. “Election commission is also a means… to keep people enslaved… people vote for someone else but someone else gets elected in return.”

“The ECP has been made like such that it can be used to easily control the governments,” Mr Khan alleged. He added that through ECP decisions are made about which party will get how many seats. He said in order to end this opaqueness, he wanted to introduce electronic voting machines — a move opposed by the ECP and other parties. The EVMs would have deterred the ‘hidden hands’ from manipulating the election results, said Imran Khan. “Elections are controlled through this way,” Mr Khan said, adding that ECP was the biggest means to control democracy in Pakistan.

Imran Khan added the ‘corrupt’ political elite of the country tried to remove him from the political theatre through all means and now they had resorted to the use of the ECP.

Speaking further about the ECP ruling, the PTI chairman said there was a difference between an affidavit and a certificate. According to Mr Khan, he signed the certificate given to him by his accountants and auditors to the “best of his knowledge” because he could not possibly keep track of all the money. The affidavit is the one submitted by PM Shehbaz Sharif in the high court to let his elder brother go abroad for medical treatment, he added.

Imran Khan further that taking money from foreign companies wasn’t illegal in 2012 as the law which prohibited taking funds from foreign companies was introduced in 2017 whereas PTI’s case was from 2012.

The PTI chairman also talked about the Financial Times report. He said that the PTI had received the money in 2012 from two fundraising dinners that Arif Naqvi had organised. Naqvi would be charged with fraud six years later in 2018 how could have I known about that in 2012, he added.

Mr Khan said the PTI was the first party that used political fundraising in Pakistan and added that political parties could not survive without money. He added that his party had a donor base of 40,000 whereas the PPP and PML-N don’t have a single donor.

PTI leaders outside ECP

Earlier in the day, some of the PTI leaders managed to reach outside the ECP office in Red Zone to register their protest against the chief election commissioner (CEC). They dispersed after handing a memorandum to ECP officials.

The protesters included Fawad Chaudhry, Pervez Khattak, Asad Umar, Azam Swati, Shibli Faraz, Faisal Javed Khan, Kanwal Shauzab and others.

The leaders were stopped at the headquarters’ gate by a contingent of police and Rangers personnel. They handed over a memorandum against CEC for playing an “unconstitutional, undemocratic and biased” role as the CEC.

Talking to the media outside the ECP office, Asad Umar said that the electoral body and its chief have lost credibility and the nation’s trust; hence PTI submitted a memorandum against the CEC Sultan Sikandar Raja to ECP officials for “playing an unconstitutional, undemocratic and biased role” as the CEC.

He said that the ECP was no longer functioning as a state body, but as a subsidiary of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition. He urged the CEC to resign as two provincial assemblies have already passed resolutions against ECP and have cited a lack of confidence in the body.

Separately, PTI lawmakers also gathered outside ECP offices in Karachi and Lahore.

In Lahore, PTI central Punjab chapter staged a protest demonstration against the CEC in front of the Punjab Election Commission office. The protesters led by central Punjab president Dr Yasmin Rashid chanted slogans against the election commissioner and demanded his immediate removal from the office.

In Karachi, dozens of PTI workers and supporters congregated outside the ECP regional office in Saddar to join the countrywide demonstrations. Led by former federal minister and PTI Sindh president Ali Zaidi, the protesters chanted slogans against the ECP chief and danced to the party songs.

Mansoor Malik in Lahore and Imran Ayub in Karachi also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2022

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