Protest sparked by G-B poll rigging claims turns violent

Demonstrators set government building, four vehicles on fire in Gilgit

Shabbir Mir November 24, 2020


Enraged protesters set on fire a government building and four vehicles in Gilgit after police baton-charged them outside the premises of the region’s Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) office on Monday.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) supporters and activists staged a protest outside the election commission’s office and urged the authorities to not announce official results of GBA-2 seat without forensic test of postal ballots as agreed between PPP and the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

According to unofficial results, PTI's Fatehullah Khan stood victorious in GBA-2, while PPP's Jameel Ahmed and former Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) chief minister Hafeezur Rehman secured second and third positions, respectively.

The initial vote count could not separate the PTI and PPP contestants. However, PTI’s Khan secured a lead of about 70 votes in postal ballots, which was later challenged by his PPP opponent.

The decision was left pending as both candidates agreed to forensic testing of the postal ballots.

“We had information that the chief election commissioner was going to declare the PTI candidate winner illegally, so, we had planned a peaceful protest,” a PPP activist said.

“But police baton-charged us and resorted to areal firing.”

PPP spokesperson Sadia Danish accused Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and G-B Ali Amin Gandapur of creating the law and order situation in the region to secure seat for the PTI candidate.

On November 15, Prime Minister Imran Khan had staked claim on the G-B government after the PTI emerged as the biggest party in last Sunday’s election for the region’s legislative assembly.

According to the unofficial results of 23 constituencies of G-B, the PTI bagged 10 seats, leading other major political parties, including the PPP with three seats, and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) with two seats.

The Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) had secured one seat after a seat adjustment with the PTI in one constituency, whereas independent candidates emerged victorious in seven constituencies, according to the unofficial results.

Sadia also blamed CEC Raja Shehbaz for working hand in glove with the PTI, saying the election commissioner was involved in removing all evidence of rigging in the region’s recently-held elections.

“The CEC has agreed in writing that until forensic test of postal ballots, the result will not be announced. But he is not keeping his words now,” she added.

The Express Tribune tried to reach out to the chief election commissioner but the top official was not available for comment.

Meanwhile, senior police official Raja Mirza Hasan said cases would be registered against those involved in rioting and damaging government property.

“The situation is under control now and thank God no casualties took place except three vehicles and an office was torched by the rioters,” he told reporters.


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