ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: A day after most of its nominees failed to clear the scrutiny of nomination papers filed for the 2024 general elections, the PTI has decided to move election tribunals on Monday (today) to contest the rejection of nomination papers of scores of its candidates, including party founder Imran Khan.

Party’s Central Information Secretary Raoof Hasan told Dawn all rejected nomination papers would be challenged. Mr Hasan said that as per the rules, the rejection of nomination papers would initially be challenged in the tribunals and then other options would be explored.

Similarly, PTI Central Punjab Additional General Secretary Sardar Azeemullah Khan told Dawn the party had asked all candidates to file appeals against ROs’ decisions.

He added that some candidates would be filing appeals with the appellate tribunals through private lawyers, while others would be offered party’s help. “The candidates have collected the certified copies of ‘rejection decisions’ from respective ROs on Sunday and will begin filing appeals with the appellate tribunals from today,” he told Dawn.

On Saturday, the Election Commission of Pakistan rejected scores of nomination forms from the PTI across the country — a move which the former ruling party decided to challenge at relevant forums.

Imran to decide on tickets in jail; party launches UK-based ‘WhatsApp account’ to expose rigging

Separately, Barrister Gohar Khan and Barrister Umair Khan Niazi will meet the party’s founder Imran Khan in Adiala Jail on Monday to get his approval for the selection of party candidates and the consequent award of tickets.

‘Glaring irregularities’

According to the Central Punjab nomination papers data, 281 candidates submitted their papers for 44 NA constituencies out of which 95 nomination papers were rejected, while 186 candidates’ nomination papers were accepted.

For 97 PP constituencies, as many as 603 nomination papers were submitted out of which 195 nomination papers were rejected, while 408 candidates’ nomination papers were accepted.

The PTI leaders alleged that the ROs appointed from the civil bureaucracy did not exercise their powers and decision-making and instead waited for orders coming from “quarters concerned”.

Citing a glaring example, the PTI leaders said that RO for NA-132 (Kasur-II) issued and displayed the “list of validly nominated candidates” that included PTI candidate Muhammad Saleem among a total of 19 candidates. However, the RO later issued a revised list of valid candidates, which reflected only 18 candidates minus Muhammad Saleem.

It may be mentioned that PTI candidate Sardar Azeemullah Khan had earlier reported that his nomination papers were scrutinised and found to be accurate, but the RO said he would issue a certificate only after receiving a confidential report from Islamabad.

The PTI leaders said the first phase of scrutiny of nomination papers was completed leaving question marks on the impartiality of the ROs as they did not react to the complaints lodged by the PTI. They added the candidates were harassed, proposers, and seconders were harassed, assaulted and arrested but the ROs did not instruct policemen to refrain from such activities.

‘WhatsApp monitor’

Separately, the PTI also launched a ‘WhatsApp’ account to seek video and pictorial evidence regarding the “pre-poll rigging” in the run-up to elections.

As a part of its strategy to expose poll irregularities at the ‘national and international’ level, the social media team of the PTI asked its supporters to share videos and pictures regarding rigging on its WhatsApp number registered in the United Kingdom.

“If you see or observe any pre-polling rigging in any constituency, please send details with pictures and videos to PTI SMT at the given number,” a message shared on PTI’s social media read. The PTI website also urged the people to register by Jan 5 for the membership of its social media cell, which would respond by Jan 8.

When Dawn tried to contact the UK-based contact number, there was an answering machine which asked this correspondent to record a message. A senior official of PTI said that the party was going through a tough time but still it felt that “it would be quite relevant” during the elections.

“Despite all efforts to keep the PTI members out of polls, a number of loyalists have succeeded in submitting their nomination papers. Even if we do not get the ‘bat’ symbol, the PTI will circulate the names of its nominees and their election symbols through social media. We know that the opponents still fear PTI so they will use all possible options for rigging. We have decided to collect the evidence of the rigging so that the flawed elections would be exposed at national and international levels,” he said.

When asked why a UK number was used for storing the potential evidence, the official said that it was used to circumvent chances of a crackdown on PTI’s social media wing. “Our members in the UK will approach the people and collect the data and then they will use it to expose rigging,” he said.

Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2024

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