PTI calls by-polls a 'farce', announces countrywide protests

Gohar asks ECP to put the brakes on notifications for those who won through underhanded means

Imran Adnan April 22, 2024
PTI and SIC leaders addressing a news conference on Monday, April 22, 2024. SCREENGRAB



Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has declared its intention to stage nationwide protests, denouncing what it describes as flagrant and shamelessly rigged by-elections. The party demands that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) halt notifications for those declared winners through deceitful methods, asserting that the by-polls were a mockery of democracy.

In a news conference flanked by PTI Secretary General and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Omar Ayub Khan, as well as Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) Chairman Sahibzada Hamid Raza, PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan lamented that instead of serving as a means of holding the government accountable, the by-elections in Punjab turned into a dark and disgraceful episode for democracy.

He further accused the alleged "mandate thieves" of resorting to shameful tactics to manipulate the electoral process, including stuffing ballot boxes before voting even began and coercing people as well as officials to rig the by-polls in the presence of ECP representatives.

Such actions, he argued, were unheard of, even in the darkest days of dictatorship.

Read PML-N wins lion’s share in by-elections

The PTI chairman revealed that he and Omar Ayub visited various polling stations and witnessed flagrant rigging firsthand. He said that they promptly informed the electoral watchdog about the rigging incidents in Gujarat.

However, despite 24 hours having elapsed, no action has been taken, which raised many eyebrows. He lamented that “the constitution, democracy, and rule of law were virtually suspended in the country.”

Gohar recalled following the widespread electoral fraud in the general elections, the party had demanded that returning officers be selected from the judiciary rather than the administration. However, the ECP rejected the fair request.

He pointed out that the inspector general of Punjab shared equal responsibility for the electoral fraud, adding that the party was scrutinizing the performance of the polls supervisory body, which had failed miserably to uphold transparent and fair elections.

Gohar urged the ECP not to endorse those who fraudulently secured victories in the by-polls.

The PTI chairman said that the party had brought up the issue with both the Supreme Court and the electoral watchdog during the general elections. He asserted that the party should be informed about the measures taken thus far to tackle election rigging.

He revealed that the party’s polling agents were expelled from polling stations by the police, acting under the authority of the Punjab government. Consequently, he asserted that they were complicit in the election rigging.' Taxpayers' money squandered'

Speaking on the occasion, Omar Ayub asserted that Sunday's by-elections could hardly be deemed as an election, but rather a futile exercise squandering taxpayers' money.

He bemoaned that internet services were suspended 24 hours before the polls to prevent pre-election rigging. He criticized the government for lacking the courage to conduct free, fair, and transparent elections.

He said that ballot boxes were unlawfully filled at several polling stations early in the morning, with video evidence supporting this claim.

He said that the returning officer in Bajaur wrote a letter detailing the threats, coercion, and harassment he endured from intelligence agencies to manipulate the polls, which was unfortunate.

The PTI secretary-general called for an investigation into both letters authored by six judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and the returning officer in Bajaur, addressing the alleged interference of agencies in both the judicial and electoral processes.

“I call on the heads of all intelligence agencies, working in Pakistan, to probe into the allegations leveled against their respective agencies and apologize to the nation for interfering in the elections and judicial affairs surfacing the letters of the six judges of IHC and the RO Bajaur.”

He vowed that they would raise these points on the floor of the house emphatically and would not rest until take the issue to its logical ends.

Omar disclosed that Punjab police detained and subjected a cameraman and reporter from two private news channels to brutal torture. He recounted that when they confronted the police, they were informed that the journalists were not apprehended by police but by agency officials disguised in police uniforms.

Omar continued, condemning the Punjab police for their excessive brutality and disregard for the law. He recounted how they were obstructed by the police for three hours, with senior officers claiming they were powerless due to orders from higher authorities forbidding Omar and Barrister Gohar's passage.

He lamented the prevailing lawlessness and jungle rule in the country, where only the commands of the “jungle king” were heeded.

Omar announced that the opposition coalition, named 'Tehreek-e-Tahaffuz-e-Aain' or the Movement for Protection of the Constitution, would convene its public gatherings in Faisalabad, with the subsequent rally scheduled for Karachi on May 5.
Following this, a sequence of public meetings would take place in North and Central Punjab, along with gatherings in inner Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The opposition leader pledged that the protest movement would persist until the supremacy of the constitution and the enforcement of the rule of law are ensured throughout the country.

He declared that a large-scale protest demonstration would take place nationwide on Friday, denouncing the alleged widespread rigging in the elections. The event would see participation from all the party's representatives in the national and provincial assemblies, as well as ticket holders. Hamid Raza, speaking at the event, asserted that labeling Sunday's by-polls as an election would be an insult to the electoral process. He alleged that results were extracted from the returning officers under duress, with presiding officers being bribed at the Governor's House. Those who resisted faced severe torture and were coerced into signing Form-45.

Raza revealed the existence of a video recorded at the Governor's House, wherein money was distributed in exchange for votes, a practice he deemed both shameful and repugnant.

He criticized the ECP, alleging that once again, it demonstrated its complicity in safeguarding those who steal mandates, ensuring their triumph.

Hamid Raza asserted that mere condemnation of the flagrant election theft would not be enough and therefore, an FIR under Article 6 should be lodged against both the ECP and the Punjab government. He stressed that such blatant disregard for the Pakistani constitution had never been witnessed before in history.
"We utterly reject this election and its outcomes," he added.

He emphasized that the opposition alliance, operating under the movement’s banner, would convene its historic public meeting in Faisalabad. This gathering marks the beginning of a prolonged protest movement in Punjab, all while adhering to constitutional and legal boundaries.

He denounced the Punjab police for its extreme brutality and authoritarianism, purportedly under the guidance of the IG Punjab. He cautioned that they would no longer tolerate such tyranny.

He affirmed his unwavering support for PTI founding chairman Imran Khan, asserting that he was following his directives closely. He vowed to persist with the protest movement until the stolen mandate was reclaimed.




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