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PTI moves ECP against ‘rigging’ ahead of Punjab by-elections

Party seeks permanent disqualification of former lawmakers contesting by-polls

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Wednesday filed a petition in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against “pre-poll rigging” ahead of by-elections on 20 Punjab Assembly seats scheduled for July 17. The petition was filed by PTI’s Omar Ayub Khan.

The petitioner stated that he was actively participating in a campaign for the upcoming by-polls when he observed “numerous irregularities and things that are impeding fair and impartial elections”. He highlighted that the electoral watchdog was bound to conduct free, fair and transparent elections in accordance with the law.

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Highlighting 19 of 20 constituencies where by-elections are to be conducted, he alleged that voter lists had been altered while voters had been “reshuffled” in violation of the Election Commission Act, 2017.

“One of the most egregious examples of their illegality is the electoral roll/voters list of PP-140 Sheikhupura. In this constituency, final electoral roll/voters list issued, dated May 20, was after the announcement of [the] election schedule, which again is a violation of the law.”

The petition stated that the total number of voters as per the lists issued in 2018 and 2020 was 2,239 and 2,875, respectively, which rose to 5,573 in May 2022.

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“This sudden increase is ambiguous and casts serious doubts on the transparency of [the] upcoming by-elections.”

The petitioner said that the way things stood in the province, “no free, fair, transparent or impartial elections” could be held. He alleged that officials, on the directives of the “acting government”, were “taking notes and interfering” with the upcoming by-polls.

“A prime example is of DC Rajanpur, who can be seen campaigning with PML-N candidates, which is a clear violation of both ethics and Section 187 of the Election Commission Act, 2017.”

He also alleged that the Jhang district police officer had clearly been posted to commit “pre-poll rigging” while the government’s candidate for PP-07 was offering bribes to voters in an effort to influence them.

Addressing a press conference in Lahore later in the day, PTI leader Chaudhry Fawad reiterated the party’s claim that pre-poll rigging was being conducted prior to the by-polls.

He alleged that the party’s candidates and workers were being harassed by the police, who were acting on the directives of the provincial government.

He claimed that the provincial government was trying to portray as though it was receiving “orders from above”.

“The establishment should beware of the snakes up their sleeves such as Attaullah Tarar and Rana Sanaullah. They are carrying out [raids] and putting it on the establishment.”

Fawad went on to claim that the government had planned pre-poll rigging in some areas and later tried to shift the blame onto the establishment.

The PTI leader stated that the party had approached the ECP for the disqualification of 19 candidates in the race who had been de-seated for defection. He expressed the hope that the petition would be taken up in a day or two. “In this way, at least genuine PML-N candidates will participate in the election.”

He also claimed that the failure of PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz’s election campaign had forced the government to forfeit ministers in order to retain its hold over Lahore. “Half the cabinet had to resign because no one was satisfied with Maryam’s campaign.”

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