Pakistan: Political parties up in arms against alleged rigging


Widespread protests were held in Balochistan, Sindh, and other parts of the country against alleged rigging in the 2024 general elections on Friday

Political parties, including the National Party, PPP, JUI, BAP, BNP-Mengal, PkMAP, and PkNAP, staged protest demonstrations engulfing major thoroughfares and district returning offices, demanding recounts and challenging the declared outcomes in Balochistan. “Our protest will continue until justice is served,” Mir Kabeer Muhammad Shahi, the central leader of the NP, said while addressing a demonstration outside the deputy commissioner’s office in Quetta.

Four political parties, including the BNP-M, PkMAP, and the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP), announced joint protest demonstrations against the alleged election rigging in the province. They also established a joint protest camp to mount pressure on the Election Commission of Pakistan to reconsider its results about their constituencies.

“The ROs snatched our democratic right,” Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal, the central leader of PkMAP, said. He said the ROs and the ECP were responsible for what he called “record rigging in the province”. Various political parties, including the Awami National Party, JUI and some candidates blocked the main highways linking Balochistan with Karachi, Sindh, Punjab and other parts of the country.

The PTI also levelled serious allegations, claiming that it was deprived of three National Assembly and nine provincial assembly seats. The political parties have also announced a joint shutter-down strike across Balochistan in this regard. In Sindh, the political parties also protested against alleged rigging. The PTI staged a demonstration outside the ECP headquarters, the JUI blocked road links in the province, and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) staged sit-ins in various parts of Karachi.

The JUI leaders and workers barricaded the highway that connects Sindh and Balochistan, claiming that the results of the polls on Feb 8 were rigged to benefit the PPP. They warned that the protests would continue if a fair vote recount was not conducted. The JI organised sit-ins at eight significant junctions in Karachi, calling on the ECP to renounce the “fake results” of the general elections. Meanwhile, in Islamabad, the capital police enforced Section 144 in force in the city and and stated action will be taken against any illegal assembly of people.

Over a dozen petitions were filed in the high courts, by several Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) backed candidates challenging the results of the elections in their respective constituencies, announced by the returning officers (ROs) concerned. Most of the election petitions were filed in the Lahore High Court (LHC), while two PTI-backed candidates moved the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the results, and at least three petitions were filed in the Sindh High Court (SHC). The petitions in the LHC challenged the victories of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Quaid Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz; Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP) President Aleem Khan in different constituencies in Lahore.

PTI-backed Shoaib Shaheen and Ali Bukhari filed petitions in the IHC, against the results of the federal capital’s NA-47 and NA-48 constituencies, respectively. PTI Sindh President Haleem Adil Sheikh moved the SHC against NA-238 results and Arsalan Khalid against NA-248 results. The petitions in the LHC requested the courts to set aside the Form-47 prepared by the Returning Officers (ROs) in their absence, hence depriving them of their right to witness consolidation process of the election’s results.

The runner-ups contended that the police officials at the whims of the ROs of different constituencies forcefully restrained them from witnessing the process of result consolidation. Their eviction from the ROs offices was a sheer violation of the fair electoral process.

The petitioners challenged the victories of Nawaz Sharif from NA-130, Maryam Nawaz from NA-119, Khawaja Asif from NA-71 Sialkot, Hamza Shehbaz from NA-118, Atta Tarar from NA-127, Saiful Maluk Khokhar from NA-126, Aleem Khan from NA-117 and in other constituencies. On the five seats of the provincial assembly, the PTI’s backed independent candidates challenged the results of PP-169, PP-53, PP-47, PP-62 and PP-46 on the same ground of being evicted from the ROs offices, depriving them of their right to witness the consolidation process of the election’s results.

LHC Justice Ali Baqar Najafi restrained the authorities concerned from proceeding further on the results of NA-128 in absence of the petitioner, PTI-backed independent candidate Salman Akram Raja or his agent. In Islamabad, PTI-backed Shoaib Shaheen told reporters on the IHC premises that they filed the petitions with the request for the immediate hearing of their petitions. “Today, I and Ali Bukhari have filed petitions. We have requested the registrar’s office to schedule an immediate hearing,” he said. According to the results announced, independent candidate Raja Khuram Shehzad Nawaz won the election for NA-48 Islamabad-III by securing 69,699 votes. However, Bukhari claimed that he was winning in the initial results but later he had been declared as the runner-up with 59,851 votes.

Shaheen had slammed NA-47 results, where Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Tariq Fazal Chaudhry was declared victorious. Shaheen blamed the powers that be for “pressuring the returning officers.” “Today, you are replaying the crime you committed in the past. Now the only hope left is the judiciary,” he said. “They took away our bat [PTI’s electoral symbol]. I had a lead of more than 50,000 votes, my opponents had a total of 40,000 votes polled.” In the petition filed in the SHC, Haleem Adil Sheikh said that he received more than 71,000 votes in the NA-238 constituency, but Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s (MQM-P) candidate Sadiq Iftikhar was declared successful in changing the results in Form 47.__Daily Times