ISLAMABAD: Just a day after by-elections were held across the country, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders alleged that intelligence and security agencies had played a role in rigging the polls.

Saying that April 21 will be remembered as a “black day” in the history of Pakistan, the party urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to withhold the notifications of results and announced a series of protests, starting from Friday.

“[The] day of election is considered an accountability day, and people cast their votes with great zeal. However, on April 21, open and blatant violations of law were observed. The magnitude of the rigging and violation of law has never been observed in the history of Pakistan. Gates of polling stations were closed, and at some polling stations, more votes were polled than the total registered votes,” PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Khan told a press conference.

Accompanied by Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Omar Ayub, Central Information Secretary Raoof Hasan, and Sunni Ittehad Council chief Sahibzada Hamid Raza, the PTI chairman said that at one polling station in Gujrat, election staff informed him that 120 votes were cast, yet three boxes full of ballot papers were seen.

Announces plans to protest poll manipulation from Friday; demands sedition cases against Punjab govt bosses

“At one polling station, the candidate’s father informed us that votes were already cast even though polling time had not yet begun. We have reported all complaints to the ECP, but the election watchdog took no action. We demand that the ECP conduct an inquiry and also share that how it will ensure that such rigging will not be repeated next time,” he said.

He also questioned why the ECP didn’t involve returning officers (ROs) and district returning officers from the judiciary, highlighting doubts about the ECP’s credibility.

“We went to another polling station but found out that our polling agents were forced to leave,” Barrister Gohar said.

Omar Ayub said that pre-poll rigging began with suspension of the internet, and alleged that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz did not “believe in transparency”.

He also showed a letter from RO of NA-8 Bajaur to the DRO, claiming that the RO alleged that an intelligence official had beaten the staff.

However, the letter has been debunked by the Bajaur administration as being ‘doctored’.

“Punjab police picked up and badly beat journalists. We also heard reports of agency personnel wearing Punjab police uniforms. Police also misbehaved with us and claimed they were helpless. We will take legal action against the DIG Gujrat, SP Investigation, DSP and SHOs… who also assaulted journalists,” he said.

Mr Ayub claimed that Shehbaz Sharif got fewer votes during the general elections than the candidate contesting on the PML-N ticket in by-election.

‘‘This is beyond comprehension.’’

“We will start protests, along with other parties, next Friday across the country.

’’Then we will hold another protest in Faisalabad, followed by organising a public meeting in Karachi on May 5, and then a series of public meetings will be held across the country,“ he said.

He said that police officials told them that intelligence agencies were not allowing voters to enter polling stations.

Sahibzada Hamid Raza alleged that the Punjab government was involved in rigging.

He said government officials forcefully obtained signatures on Form 45s and made videos while paying money to some individuals.

He suggested that cases of sedition, including Article 6, be registered against the Punjab government high-ups.

Published in Dawn, April 23nd, 2024

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