Pakistan: PTI announces countrywide protests against ‘rigged’ by-polls


The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has announced nationwide protests while condemning Sunday’s by-elections held across the country, branding them as fraudulent.

In a joint press conference held on Monday at the PTI Central Secretariat, PTI Secretary General and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Omar Ayub Khan, alongside Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) Chairman Sahibzada Hamid Raza, vehemently criticised the integrity of Sunday’s elections and announced plans for protests slated for Friday, April 26.

Ayub demanded public apologies from the heads of all intelligence agencies in Pakistan for their alleged interference in electoral and judicial matters. Citing evidence from six judges and a letter from the Bajaur returning officer, Ayub asserted that such incidents warranted formal apologies from the intelligence chiefs.

Present at the press briefing, PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan accused the Punjab government and Punjab Police of complicity in election rigging. He alleged that the Punjab government deployed police forces to expel PTI/SIC polling agents from polling stations and accused the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of failing to ensure fair elections.

Gohar recounted an incident at a polling station where a PTI candidate’s father discovered votes had been cast before polling officially began, citing it as a clear instance of democratic norms and the rule of law being compromised.

He urged the ECP not to validate election results in areas where reports of rigging had been lodged and demanded an investigation into such occurrences. He also called for the release of the inquiry report regarding the former Rawalpindi commissioner’s remarks on election irregularities.

Ayub highlighted the pre-polling suspension of internet services and widespread rigging allegations in Punjab. He referenced a complaint by a returning officer in Bajaur, alleging torture by intelligence officials, as well as a letter from six judges of the Islamabad High Court, suggesting undue influence from intelligence agencies.

Moreover, Ayub pointed out instances where media personnel were reportedly detained and mistreated by Punjab Police, purportedly under coercion from intelligence agencies posing as law enforcement. He also noted a case where a PML-N candidate garnered more votes than Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in the by-election, indicating potential manipulation.

Addressing incidents of violence during the by-elections, Ayub mentioned instances where private media personnel were allegedly manhandled by police in Gujrat.

Sahibzada Hamid Raza, head of SIC, announced plans to initiate a movement in Punjab to protest against the purportedly rigged elections. Ayub further called for FIRs to be lodged against the ECP and the Punjab government for treason under Article 6. The protest movement is expected to gain momentum, with rallies scheduled across various regions including Faisalabad, Karachi, and other parts of Punjab, and Sindh.

PTI and SIC leaders affirmed their commitment to holding accountable those responsible for electoral malpractice, asserting that the Movement for Protection of the Constitution of Pakistan would uphold the rule of law and the Constitution.

They urged for nationwide action against rigging and lawlessness to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process.__Daily Times