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PTI leaders blame intelligence agencies for rigging in by-elections

ISLAMABAD: Just a day after by-elections were held across the country, leaders of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) blamed intelligence and security agencies of rigging the polls.

Describing April 21 as a “black day” in Pakistan’s history, the party called on the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold back the notifications of results and announced plans for a series of protests starting from Friday.

“The election day is supposed to be a day of accountability, where people vote enthusiastically.

However, on April 21, we witnessed open and blatant violations of law. The scale of rigging and lawlessness was unprecedented in Pakistan’s history. Polling station gates were closed, and in some places, more votes were cast than the total registered voters,” said PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Khan during a press conference.

Joined by Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Omar Ayub, Central Information Secretary Raoof Hasan, and Sunni Ittehad Council chief Sahibzada Hamid Raza, Khan highlighted incidents such as at a polling station in Gujrat where election staff reported 120 votes cast despite only three boxes of ballot papers being visible.

“We received reports that votes were cast even before the polling began, as informed by the candidate’s father at one polling station. Despite reporting these complaints to the ECP, no action was taken. We demand an inquiry by the ECP and assurance that such rigging will not occur in the future,” he added.

Questioning the credibility of the ECP, Khan also raised concerns about the absence of involvement of returning officers (ROs) and district returning officers from the judiciary.

“We found that our polling agents were forced to leave another polling station,” Khan continued.

Omar Ayub alleged that pre-poll rigging began with the suspension of internet services and accused Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz of lacking transparency.

He presented a letter from the RO of NA-8 Bajaur to the DRO, alleging that an intelligence official had assaulted the staff. However, the Bajaur administration debunked the letter as ‘doctored’.

“Punjab police reportedly picked up and beat journalists. There were reports of agency personnel wearing Punjab police uniforms, misbehavior with us, and claims of helplessness by the police. Legal action will be taken against those responsible,” Ayub said.

He also highlighted discrepancies, claiming that Shehbaz Sharif received fewer votes during the general elections than the PML-N candidate in the by-elections.

“We will begin protests next Friday across the country, joined by other parties. Following that, we will hold protests in Faisalabad, a public meeting in Karachi on May 5, and a series of public meetings nationwide,” Ayub announced.

Sahibzada Hamid Raza accused the Punjab government of involvement in rigging, alleging that government officials forcefully obtained signatures on Form 45s and made videos while paying individuals.

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I am an experienced writer, analyst, and author. My exposure in English journalism spans more than 28 years. In the past, I have been working with daily The Muslim (Lahore Bureau), daily Business Recorder (Lahore/Islamabad Bureaus), Daily Times, Islamabad, daily The Nation (Lahore and Karachi). With daily The Nation, I have served as Resident Editor, Karachi. Since 2009, I have been working as a Freelance Writer/Editor for American organizations.

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