Pak elections: Rawalpindi commissioner admits rigging, resigns in protest

Prohibitory orders in capital Islamabad as Imran Khan's PTI launches nationwide protests against 'rigged' elections

Election Commission of Pakistan (photo: IANS)
Election Commission of Pakistan (photo: IANS)

NH Digital

Pakistan's Rawalpindi commissioner Liaquat Ali Chattha has resigned from his office after claiming that the recent general election results of 8 February were manipulated, news reports said on Saturday.

The commissioner called for being "hanged" for "committing fraud" in the Rawalpindi division, reported Express Tribune. “I am taking the responsibility for all this wrongdoing and telling you that the chief election commissioner and the chief justice are also completely involved in this,” he was quoted as saying by the Dawn.

"We converted losers into winners with a 50,000-vote margin," Chattha claimed, before surrendering himself to the police.

The development comes amidst criticism of jailed former PM Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for seeking US intervention in the alleged “rigging” of the polls, saying “it goes against Pakistan’s sovereignty”.

PML-N leader Marriyum Aurangzeb also called out Khan and PTI for approaching the US, despite accusing it in 2022 of bringing down his government.

On 15 February, Khan had sought the help of the US with a special message to Washington that it should play a role and voice concern about his country's "rigged" general elections.

On Friday, addressing a press conference along with party leader Ataullah Tarar, Aurangzeb said: “Absolutely not, we are not slaves! It goes against Pakistan's sovereignty," the Express Tribune reported.

Meanwhile, authorities on Saturday imposed prohibitory orders in Pakistan's capital as the PTI began nationwide protests against alleged rigging and stealing of its mandate in the recent elections.

Criticising the outcome of the polls, which saw PTI-backed independent candidates emerging as the largest group by winning over 90 National Assembly seats, PTI announced countrywide "peaceful protests" against what it termed "record-high rigging". The protests began with a march in Wana in South Waziristan of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The party has decided to sit in the opposition in Parliament. "The PTI has called for country-wide protests against the unprecedented, massive, brazen rigging in general elections 2024, where PTI's win of 180 National Assembly seats and a two-thirds majority in the parliament, was cut down to half," the party said in a statement.

"The 2024 elections would be remembered in the country's history due to the scale of rigging," PTI spokesperson Raoof Hasan said.

Islamabad police have said section 144 is in force in the city and security is on "high alert", as the PTI is set to begin its countrywide protests, the Dawn reported.

The police said special forces of the Counter Terrorism Department had been deployed on patrol to deal with any emergency. "Patrolling has been increased across the district while checking has been tightened at checkpoints," it added.

Meanwhile, Punjab Police clamped down on PTI leaders and workers in Lahore who were protesting against "massive rigging" in the elections, arrested Imran Khan's lawyer Salman Akram Raja and scores of women PTI supporters who gathered on Jail Road on the call of the jailed former premier to protest the massive rigging in the elections that allegedly deprived the PTI of at least over 90 National Assembly seats.

A heavy police contingent gathered outside the PTI office on Jail Road and baton-charged party workers protesting the rigging. TV footage showed the police manhandling PTI women workers and bundling them into police vans.

Khan's PTI is not the only party that has voiced concerns over the 8 February polls, as the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), and others have also complained of rigging.

Independent candidates — a majority backed by PTI — won 93 of the 265 National Assembly seats that were contested in the elections. However, PTI's two main rivals appear on course to form a coalition government after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) formed a post-poll alliance on Tuesday.

The PML-N won 75 seats while the PPP came third with 54 seats. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) has also agreed to support them with their 17 seats.

To form a government, a party must win 133 of the 265 contested seats in the 266-member National Assembly.

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