The plot thickens

Published February 24, 2024

THE recent explosive allegations by Liaquat Ali Chattha, the former commissioner of Rawalpindi, have thrust the nation into a state of heightened scepticism with regard to the already disputed general elections.

Mr Chattha’s initial public ‘confession’ claiming involvement in poll rigging and implicating — without proof — the chief election commissioner and chief justice of Pakistan sent shockwaves across the country. A seemingly contrite Mr Chattha had claimed in remarks to reporters that candidates that were “losing” the elections “were made to win”.

However, the plot has since thickened with the emergence of a letter addressed to the ECP, supposedly sent by Mr Chattha, in which he recants his allegations. The former official, who was approaching retirement, says he was enticed by an unnamed absconding PTI leader into levelling the allegations after he was promised a “lucrative position” if he aided the PTI’s narrative that the polls were rigged.

This turn of events raises more questions than it answers, leaving the public in a bog of doubt. The ambiguity of this letter’s origin, coupled with Mr Chattha’s disappearance since his initial accusation, has only intensified the mystery.

Given the gravity of the accusations, both initial and recanted, it is imperative that an investigation be launched immediately. If his initial confession was fabricated, as his letter purports, it is essential the characters behind such manipulation be uncovered and punished.

Conversely, if his rigging allegations hold any shred of truth, it is equally crucial that those claims be probed. Commissioners, by virtue of their role, wield significant administrative influence. Such power can easily be misused. It is, therefore, paramount that not only Mr Chattha’s claims but also his tenure in office are scrutinised, especially given the corruption charges against him.

The Punjab government has initiated a probe into the development schemes the ex-commissioner approved, which is a start. However, it must be ensured this probe is not simply punitive in nature. It is now up to the authorities to see the entire matter through with a swift and transparent investigation. This is crucial to uphold the integrity of the electoral process and restore public confidence in the state’s institutions. Anything short of this would not only serve as a betrayal of the public’s trust but also jeopardise Pakistan’s democratic foundations.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2024

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