RAWALPINDI/ISLAMABAD: As the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) took to the streets in the twin cities on Sunday against the alleged rigging in the Feb 8 polls, the Rawalpindi police used teargas and batons to disperse PTI-backed candidates and supporters who had gathered outside the office of the District Election Commissioner near Chandni Chowk.
Police also detained a number of PTI supporters, but the exact number of the individuals detained by the police was not shared with the media. However, cases against them had been registered for the violation of Section 144. Due to the protest, business in the neighbourhood as well as traffic were disrupted.
In an apparent bid to stop the coverage of the PTI protest, the police also tortured three mediapersons and manhandled a foreign journalist who had arrived to cover the protest.
The police action prompted an inquiry into the episode after CPO Khalid Hamdani took notice of the incident and sought a report within 24 hours.
PTI-backed candidates hold demonstration against ‘rigging’ in G-8 and F-11 in Islamabad; Pindi police torture journalists; CPO announces probe
The violence started when the PTI candidates, including Shehryar Riaz who contested the election from NA-56, were leaving after addressing the protesters who were busy shouting ‘anti-government’ slogans. An eyewitness said that the protesters were peaceful but all of a sudden the police started firing teargas shells and baton-charging them.
The police used batons and fired teargas shells after the protesters allegedly refused to leave the protest site.
According to the police, the establishment of law and order was the top priority of the administration and those who attempted to disrupt the law and order would be “dealt with iron hands”.
“Legal action will be ensured against those participating in or encouraging illegal assembly,” the spokesperson said.
Speaking about the police violence after the protest, PTI’s Sheryar Riaz said: “We were peaceful and after the protest in Sadiqabad Chowk, we dispersed peacefully. The police, however, used teargas and baton-charge against the PTI workers.”
He claimed that the PTI had given a protest call to the workers to gather in front of Election Commission offices but later it changed the venue to Sadiqabad Chowk on the directives of top leadership.
“But, the police action is unjustified,” he said, adding that along with Seemabia Tahir, he had challenged the results in the Lahore High Court as the returning officer prepared Form-47 in the absence of their polling agents.
“Under the law, Form-47 is completed in the presence of the candidate’s representatives,” he said.
Protest in Islamabad
In the federal capital, the PTI held protests outside the offices of the ROs in sectors F-11 and G-8 and demanded the announcement of the results of three constituencies of the federal capital as per Form 45.
They alleged that despite getting a stay order from the Election Commission of Pakistan, the ROs issued Form 49 [notifications] of all three constituencies in the city. They announced that they would continue their protest outside the RO offices on a daily basis.
In Sector F-11, the PML-N workers reached the venue and chanted slogans against the PTI. The police had made proper arrangements to avert a clash.
A statement said the Islamabad police had enhanced security measures in ‘high-security zone’ and Section 144 was imposed in the city,
empowering the “officials to take legal action in response to unlawful activities”.
PTI’s Amir Masood Mughal from NA-46 told Dawn that he had managed to get Form 45 of all 342 polling stations which clearly showed that he had received 85,224 votes whereas his opponent PML-N’s Anjum Aqeel Khan got 41,620 votes. He alleged Anjum Aqeel Khan’s victory was announced just because he was the candidate of the PML-N.
“In the morning, Shoaib Shaheen, Ali Bukhari, and I obtained a stay order from the ECP…but the RO still issued the Form 49 [notification],” he said.
On the other hand, PTI-backed Shoaib Shaheen from NA-47 held a protest in Sector G-8.
“We will continue our protest until we get the accurate result. We will come here on a daily basis at 2pm,” he announced at the demonstration. Later, he met the DRO and demanded the issuance of the election result as per the votes cast by the people in his favour.
In Taxila, PTI-backed independent candidates complained of rigging and accused the returning officers of changing poll results.
Addressing a press conference, PP-12 candidates belonging to the PTI and PPP and other parties rejected the poll outcome for NA-54 and PP-12 seats.
They insisted the presiding officers in their constituencies carried out the electoral process fairly at their respective polling stations, but the returning officers changed the election results. They expressed concerns over the “overnight change” in the results of both constituencies and said they would not accept it.
Talagang police have registered cases against PTI leaders and workers who protested in front of the office of the returning officer to get certified copies of results on Saturday.
According to the First Information Report (FIR), the cases were registered under 12 charges, including terrorism and attempted murder.
The PTI said its 20 workers had been arrested. Those booked included party leader Hafiz Ammar Yasir (who is currently in Saudi Arabia), retired Col Sultan Surkhru, Kaheem Nisar Ahmed, candidates for PP-22 and PP-23, and 300 workers.
Police said PTI’s self-exiled leader and former MPA Hafiz Ammar Yasir released a video on social media urging the workers to storm the office of the RO.
The FIR claimed that after that video, Mr Surkhru and Mr Nisar led a mob of 250 to 300 workers who besieged the RO office.
However, in the video, Mr Yasir while congratulating party workers and voters of NA-59 told them that PTI’s candidate Malik Roman Ahmed had won the constituency by a margin of more 32,000 votes as per Form 45.
“I ask the people of Talagang, Lawa, Tamman, Wanhar and Dhan to come out on Saturday and gather in front of the RO office for a peaceful protest. They have plundered our right but we would get it back,” he said.
The PTI workers and local leaders gathered in front of the RO office and after their refusal to disperse, police resorted to tear gas shelling and baton charging.
Police also stormed the house of Mr Yasir where they broke the doors and other household items.
On Sunday, a police team also raided the house of Raja Nazir, a close aide to Ayaz Amir in Tatral village.
“A heavy contingent of police stormed into my house and they inquired about Forms 45 from my family members,” Raja Nazir said.
When contacted, the public relations officer of Chakwal police expressed his ignorance about the raid. — Amjad Iqbal and Nabeel Anwar Dhakku also contributed to the story
Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2024