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Pakistan Election Faces ‘Pre-Poll Rigging,’ Warns Human Rights Watchdog

The political party of jailed former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is facing what appears to be a “systematic dismemberment” and “pre-poll rigging,” according to a rights watchdog, raising concerns about the fairness of the upcoming elections.

Nomination papers for Imran Khan and a majority of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party candidates have been rejected by the electoral commission, excluding them from the February 8 ballot, as reported by PTI.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed skepticism about the fairness of these rejections, describing them as systematic and based on flimsy reasons, indicating possible pre-poll rigging.

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Imran Khan, currently in prison since August, is facing trial in multiple cases that he claims were orchestrated to prevent him from participating in the elections as the figurehead of his party.

The Electoral Commission of Pakistan rejected his nomination due to a previous disqualification stemming from a graft conviction last year.

HRCP documented instances of harassment against other PTI candidates attempting to submit their nominations for the election.

There are concerns that the fairness of the election might be compromised, leading to potential challenges to the legitimacy of the new government after the vote.

Imran Khan, a popular former international cricketer, was ousted by a parliamentary no-confidence vote in April 2022 following a fallout with Pakistan’s powerful military leaders.

His subsequent detention in May led to unrest, and the PTI has faced a crackdown, with leading figures either jailed or forced to leave the party.

The PTI has announced its intention to appeal the rejection of over 90% of its candidates for the upcoming elections. The final list of contesting candidates is expected to be announced by Pakistan’s election commission in three weeks.

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