JI’s Mushtaq Ahmad demands CEC’s resignation as senators decry alleged rigging in Feb 8 polls

Published February 20, 2024
JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmad speaks during a Senate session on Tuesday, Feb 20. — screengrab
JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmad speaks during a Senate session on Tuesday, Feb 20. — screengrab

Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmad on Tuesday demanded that Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja resign from his post and proceedings under Article 6 (high treason) of the Constitution be initiated against him.

He passed these remarks as the upper house of Parliament convened for the second day. During the session, a number of senators raised concerns regarding allegations of poll rigging and last week’s press conference by former Rawalpindi commissioner Liaqat Ali Chattha wherein he had accused the Election Commission of Pakistan and Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa of involvement in the “rigging” — a claim denied by the electoral watchdog and the top judge.

Chattha claimed the candidates who were “losing” the elections “were made to win” and that the process to justify the manipulated results was still going in “an organised manner at some offices”.

Apart from the ex-commissioner, several political parties including the PTI, JI, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazal and Awami National Party claimed that they were deprived of their mandate through “massive rigging”.

Speaking during today’s Senate session, Senator Mushtaq said: “Chairman sahib, the country witnessed the worst-ever rigging on Feb 8. These were fake elections and whatever government is formed on the basis of these polls would be fake.”

He demanded that the ECP should apologise for failing to fulfil its constitutional responsibility and the CEC should resign.

“Proceedings should be initiated against him under Article 6 of the Constitution and the Rs5 billion that was spent on the elections should be recovered those responsible for rigging,” the JI senator said.

He further claimed that four departments — the ECP, caretaker government, judiciary and establishment — had “stolen the mandate of the public”.

Mushtaq also read out loud Article 6, adding that the ECP was bound to ensure that the elections were free, fair, transparent and lawful. “But none of this was ensured in the Feb 8 elections and, therefore, the election commission should be tried under high treason,” he asserted.

The senator lamented that the nation was bearing an increase in the costs of electricity, gas and other essentials, claiming that all this money was being given to the ECP.

“This will be a strange government where the prime minister was selected first and then elections were held. I believe this is not just rigging but this is the rape [sic] of the ballot paper, ballot box and the nation’s fundamental right,” he said.

Mushtaq went on to say that the Feb 8 polls lost their credibility the moment mobile and internet services were suspended on election day.

“For the past three days, there has been a clamp down on social media platform Twitter [now X]. Why? Because rigging has taken place and you are not facing it because you are scared,” he alleged.

This, the senator continued, was a theft of the people’s digital rights which would not be accepted.

Referring to Chattha’s press conference, he said the ex-commissioner had “exposed” the Feb 8 elections. “You can see that the situation was something else on Feb 8 and it completely changed on Feb 9,” he said.

Mushtaq also lauded JI’s Karachi Emir Naeemur Rehman for forfeiting his Sindh Assembly seat. “Deals were made beforehand, and results were announced according to that. This is a big question which should be investigated,” he claimed.

The senator added that those involved in alleged poll rigging were playing with Pakistan’s future. “Elections are supposed to pull the country out of the crisis, but these polls just increased all our economic and political challenges,” he said.

“I want to ask, what message are you giving to the public by this? That some civil servants will decide for the nation behind closed doors?” Mushtaq asked in the fiery speech.

‘People’s decision loud and clear’

PTI Senator Barrister Ali Zafar stated that the people of Pakistan, particularly the youth, had announced their decision in favour of incarcerated party chief Imran Khan on Feb 8.

“It is a revolution of the vote and in favour of democracy,” he said. “Despite the incidents of pre- and post-poll rigging, they have given a decision loud and clear.

“Whether someone accepts this or not, this decision is in favour of hope and democracy. This decision is in favour of the PTI and Imran Khan,” Zafar added, lauding the nation.

He said that the PTI was harassed in the hope that “supporters won’t come out to vote” on Feb 8. The senator recalled that the homes of PTI candidates were raided, they were stopped from filing nomination papers and the party was not allowed to hold a single gathering in the run-up to the polls.

“And then just a few days before [the elections], our symbol was snatched to create confusion among voters,” he lamented, terming the events “pre-poll rigging”.

Barrister Zafar further said that Imran’s convictions in the cipher, Toshakhana and Iddat cases days before polls followed the pattern of a “witch hunt” and warned that this would be harmful for politics in the country.

“Despite all this, the nation came out and voted for the PTI on Feb 8. But when pre-poll rigging failed, post-poll rigging began. Our mandate has been stolen and if it is not returned then it will not stay in anyone’s hands.

“A government without legitimacy and mandate will only fail,” he added.

Meanwhile, PTI Senator Walid Iqbal noted that the word ‘election’ in Pakistan’s Constitution meant that it was not the mere casting or counting of votes but was rather “an entire process”.

“But whatever happened throughout this process — which includes snatching of nomination papers, depriving a party of its electoral symbol and raids — proves that the electoral process was tainted,” he claimed.

He lamented the suspension of mobile and internet services, saying that the outage was condemned across the world. “The caretakers and ECP will have to prove that there was no malice in this suspension,” the senator demanded.

Iqbal further highlighted that the CEC had assured the nation that provisional results, on the basis of Form 45s, would be announced by midnight. “But this did not happen, everything is in front of us,” he pointed out.

‘Unfair to say rigging took place in select areas’

Meanwhile, PML-N Senator Irfan Siddiqui stated that it was true that Pakistan’s electoral history was not perfect, noting that this situation had persisted for several decades.

He highlighted that none of the democratically elected governments were ever allowed to complete their tenure. “In this manner, I agree with my colleagues that the history of our elections is not exactly the best. But why are we not talking about the 2018 polls?” the senator asked.

“Whatever happened in the 2018 general elections is a dark chapter in the history of our country. A lot happened back then and maybe the same happened this year as well.

“And if the same happened again, then it took place across the country and not just in Punjab or Balochistan. It happened in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well,” he said.

The irregularities, he continued, took place everywhere. “And if you suffered from it, so did we,” Siddiqui stressed.

“It isn’t fair to say that no rigging took place where you won and vice versa,” he said, recalling that all the allegations levelled by the PTI today were similar to the “injustices” the PML-N faced in 2018.

Referring to the PTI’s recent talks with the JUI-F, Senator Irfan questioned why the Imran-led party does not hold a dialogue with other parties. “Come to the Parliament and register your protest […] it is time that the politics of confrontation ends,” he added.

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