PML-N, PPP trade allegations after videos surface

ECP orders inquiry into authenticity of clips, arrest of those ‘purchasing’ votes ahead of NA-133 by-poll


Our Correspondent November 28, 2021
SCREENGRAB/SOCIAL MEDIA

LAHORE:

The PML-N and the PPP, two rivals in the NA-133 by-election, on Sunday traded allegations of pre-poll rigging, after video clips went viral on social media wherein voters could allegedly be seen in queues with their ID cards and selling their votes on oath.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) also took notice of the videos and ordered the authorities concerned to not only look into the matter to determine its authenticity, but also to arrest anyone involved in the “purchasing” of votes.

Returning Officer (RO) Syed Basit Ali wrote four separate letters to the Punjab police chief, National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) chairman, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) chairman and Lahore Commissioner, drawing their attention to the videos.
The letters read that people could be seen distributing cash for “getting on-oath pledges from voters to cast votes" in favour of a political party.

They further read that the videos showed some people noting down the credentials of the voters for buying their ballots for some cash.
They added that some pictures and banners of contesting candidates could also be seen in the background.

The letters instructed a forensic analysis to ascertain the veracity of the videos in question and track down their origin, identify faces visible in footage along with their complete bio-data, to identify the premises in question, and to arrest any such person found to be involved in any illegal and corrupt practice in relation to the by-election.

A notice was also issued earlier on Saturday to PPP candidate Chaudhry Aslam Gill by the RO to explain his position in relation to the videos, after a complaint was lodged against him by Muhammad Arif, reportedly a PML-N activist. Arif had accused the PPP candidate, who is also the PPP’s Lahore president, of buying votes for Rs2,000 each and making the voters take an oath.

PPP Punjab General Secretary Hasan Murtaza, who is also the parliamentary leader in the Punjab Assembly, said Gill, while appearing before the RO, denied allegation of purchasing votes.
He said videos and audio leaks were “synonymous with PML-N’s politics”.
“The PPP has never involved itself with this dirty business.  I cannot spot a single PPP activist, voter or any local leader,” he added.

Murtaza said the PML-N was afraid that it would suffer a defeat. “It is “honouring” money instead of the vote in the NA-133 by-election.”
The PPP leader said the party had set up camps where activists were being trained on how to cast their vote.

Later on Sunday, PPP candidate Gill, while taking a dig at the PML-N, said the videos showing the rival party buying votes had exposed that it had mentally accepted its defeat.
“If elections are expensive in the country today, it is because of [former premier] Nawaz Sharif's actions and policies.”

Ali Pervaiz Malik, the son of PML-N candidate Shaista Pervaiz Malik, in his video message said he condemned the “PPP’s attempt to buy votes”.
He added that he hoped that PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and the party leadership would take notice of “this incident and would stop this at once”.

 

Ali said that his late father Malik Pervaiz had won this seat in 2018 by securing 90,000 votes. “The share of the PPP, which is running this filthy campaign, was only 10th in terms of votes,” he added.

Ali claimed that at first the PPP was doing this behind closed doors, but now it was doing it out in the open.

This National Assembly seat from Lahore fell vacant due to the death of the PML-N MNA, who had passed away on October 11. The by-election for this seat is scheduled for December 5.

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