RAWALPINDI: The fallout of bombshell allegations about election rigging levelled by former Rawalpindi commissioner Liaquat Ali Chattha continued to unfurl on Sunday as the Punjab government has decided to register a case against the ex-bureaucrat.

On the other hand, PTI has sought an “independent and empowered” judicial commission to probe the allegations without the chief justice being made part of it, while the PML-N termed Mr Chattha’s statement ‘May 9 part-II’ aimed at creating unrest in the country with PTI ‘provoking’ hatred against bureaucracy.

At a press conference on Saturday, Mr Chattha accused the CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja and CJP Qazi Faez Isa of being involved in “rigging” and claimed that results were changed to ensure the victory of candidates who were losing.

Following the press conference, the Punjab caretaker chief minister ordered the formation of an inquiry committee. When contacted, Punjab caretaker Information Minister Amir Mir said no committee has been formed yet and the issue “would become clear in a day or two”.

A senior provincial cabinet member told Dawn that the government has now decided to file an FIR against the official.

Talking about the government’s change of mind, he said such committees take a long time to wind up the probe and bring facts to light.

The case will be registered in a day or two after approval from the provincial cabinet, he said.

“The FIR will be lodged under sections 196, 196-A of the Criminal Procedure Code and 120-A, 120-B, 121-A, 171-G and 500 of Pakistan Penal Code,” the cabinet member said, adding that provisions of the election code of conduct are also likely to be added to the charge-sheet.

The said sections include provisions for prosecution of offences against the state, criminal conspiracy, waging a ‘war against Pakistan’, making false statements regarding elections and defamation.

The cabinet member said that after the case has been registered, a joint committee of police and intelligence agencies will start the probe.

The case is likely to be filed in Rawalpindi on the complaint of an additional commissioner.

The caretaker government is “serious about the matter” and would vigorously pursue it, the cabinet member said, adding the election record and other material were already in custody.

He said an alleged frontman of the former commissioner was already in police custody, and all records had been shifted to the provincial headquarters.

Secretary’s house raided

The CIA police raided the house of the former commissioner’s private secretary Ashfaq Tarrar in the Alipur Chattha area of Wazirabad on Saturday night, according to family and local sources.

The police also took into custody the brother-in-law of Ashfaq Tarrar and seized mobile phones of family members.

Mr Tarrar’s wife claimed the cops entered the house after breaking the door locks and searched the whole place.

Mr Tarrar, an employee of the provincial Mines and Minerals Department, had been working as the former commissioner’s secretary for some time and was considered his close aide.

ECP summons officials

Separately, the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) inquiry committee summoned the district returning officers (DROs) of Rawalpindi Division’s six districts — including Rawalpindi, Attock, Chakwal, Jhelum, Murree and Talagang.

Sources said the DROs — who are also the respective deputy commissioners of districts — and returning officers will record statements before the inquiry committee formed by ECP on Saturday.

In light of the committee’s recommendations, the ECP will decide whether or not to initiate legal proceedings against the commissioner.

PTI seeks judicial commission

The PTI leadership has demanded an “independent and empowered” judicial commission to probe the former commissioner’s allegations.

Addressing a press conference, PTI leader Barrister Gohar Khan and Secretary General Omar Ayub Khan said the chief justice shouldn’t become part of the proposed commission to investigate what they called the “robbery” of people’s mandate.

The PTI leader demanded the inquiry’s result be shared with the public.

Mr Ayub, who is also the party’s nominee for prime minister, lamented the “blatant rigging” against his party and said PTI had rejected “fraud” elections because the mandate people gave “to their leader” Imran Khan was “pilfered”.

He said the probe commission should comprise “independent judges” to ensure a fair and transparent inquiry.

Mr Ayub stressed he was not demanding elections to be annulled but wanted the real mandate to be recognised, and results should reflect the actual votes cast by people.

Mr Gohar said: “We are not demanding the chief justice’s (CJP) resignation, but a judicial inquiry must be held on the allegations to unmask the real orchestrators of election robbery”.

Hatred against bureaucracy

The PML-N termed Mr Chattah’s statement ‘May 9 part-II’ aimed at setting the country ablaze as PTI is ‘provoking’ hatred against bureaucracy.

Referring to the officer’s persser, Khwaja Asif during a media talk in Sialkot said PTI had at least got Form-45 after the Feb 8 polling, while in 2018 PML-N had been given the results on plain papers some of which he had sent to then army chief Qamar Bajwa. He regretted that family details of some bureaucrats are being shared on social media endangering their lives.

PML-N nominee for chief minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif warned that those browbeating the officials would be dealt with an iron hand.

In a statement, she asked the officials not to be worried and discharge their responsibilities as usual.

PML-N leader Malik Ahmed Khan described ex-commissioner Liaquat Chattah’s statement as May 9 part-II for creating unrest in the country.

Speaking at a presser along with Azma Bukhari and Ata Tarar in Lahore, he said the propaganda of rigging was not without a reason rather he saw it as a continuation of the conspiracy against economy and armed forces the people had been witnessing for many months. He said the commissioner had nothing to do with ECP or the election process and Mr Chattha was neither DRO nor an RO who function directly under the ECP. He said had Mr Chattha any evidence of rigging he would have made it public.

Mr Tarar claimed that PTI social media activist Arsalan had already informed through various WhatsApp groups that Mr Chattha was going to hold a presser.

Ms Bukhari claimed that Mr Chattha had met the PTI nominee for the office of Punjab chief minister Mian Aslam Iqbal before holding the press conference. She said attempts were being made to force the ROs and DROs to become ‘Liaquat Chattha’ as the country was being driven towards anarchy.

Amjad Mahmood in Lahore, Waseem Ashraf Butt in Gujrat and Ikram Junaidi in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2024

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