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Thursday April 18, 2024

Ex-Pindi commissioner says rigging allegations drama planned by ‘senior PTI leadership’

Former commissioner says he is "extremely ashamed and embarrassed for making false, concocted" claims

By Waqar Satti
February 22, 2024
Former Commissioner Rawalpindi Division Liaquat Ali Chatta addresses a meeting on January 23, 2024. — Facebook/Commissioner Rawalpindi Official
Former Commissioner Rawalpindi Division Liaquat Ali Chatta addresses a meeting on January 23, 2024. — Facebook/Commissioner Rawalpindi Official

ISLAMABAD: Former Rawalpindi commissioner Liaqat Ali Chatha has retracted his bombshell allegations related to rigging in the February 8 polls, saying he is "extremely shameful and embarrassed" over the claims. 

"I take full responsibility for my actions and surrender myself before the authorities for any kind of legal action," Chatha said in a statement to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). 

His statement comes hours after he recorded his statement before the ECP committee formed to probe his allegations, as per sources. 

In a dramatic development last Saturday, Chatha had tendered his resignation, which he said was out of "guilty conscience" for abetting large-scale electoral rigging in the garrison city, further raising the political mercury in the country.

The commissioner, in the rare press conference, took responsibility for the “rigging” that he claimed took place in Rawalpindi Division. “We converted the losers into winners with 50,000 votes margin,” he stated.

In response to his allegations, the PTI, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), and other political parties — most of whom had already rejected the election results — demanded an investigation into the matter.

In the same presser, Chata had also accused Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa of facilitating the rigging. Responding to his allegations, CJP Isa demanded the former commissioner to show evidence to back his allegations against him.

However, retracting his allegations, Chatha revealed that all of this was done in coordination with the Imran Khan-founded PTI, who had also given him “lucrative positions for me in future”.

In his statement, Chatha, who has been a civil servant for 32 years, said that after the 2018 elections, when the PTI formed government in Punjab, he remained posted to senior provincial posts, including provincial secretary to the Government of Punjab.

“The position of Secretary is among the top posts in the provincial government. While posted as Provincial Secretary, I got opportunities to develop relationships with senior and prominent political figures of PTI.”

Chatha said during the PTI’s stint in power, he had developed a cordial personal friendship with one of the prominent PTI leaders.

He said that after the incident of May 9, 2023, as with other leadership of PTI, the aforementioned prominent leader also absconded from courts, was declared as a proclaimed offender (PO), and has been hiding.

“Throughout this time, I had direct contact with him and I kept on discreetly helping him on various issues. Consequently, my relationship with said prominent PTI leader evolved into a very close friendship based on a high-level of trust.”

The statement mentioned that Chatha, after the February 8 elections, had “secretly and discreetly travelled to Lahore” to meet the PTI leader on Feb 11.

“It was in this meeting, that he made an offer to me that if I play a role for supporting the PTI’s ongoing narrative of rigging in elections and maligning state institutions, he would ensure a lucrative position for me in future.”

Chatha said that the PTI leader told him that the entire planning had been formulated after consultation and approval of the senior leadership of the PTI.

“This proposal was made by the said individual in consideration of the fact that I was about to retire from service. He was also aware of the fact that I was under pressure due to this forthcoming retirement. After having remained a part of the services for 32 years, it is naturally hard for any civil servant to let go of all perks, privileges, and authorities.”

Chatha told the ECP that he had a detailed discussion on the proposed press conference and he was informed that the general direction which was needed to be adopted.

“Initially, it was proposed by me that I would write the entire narrative and submit the same as part of my resignation. However, this proposal was dropped by the said prominent PTI leader as such written resignation would not create any sensations for their narrative building,” he said.

After detailed discussions, he said, it was agreed that a press conference would be conducted by him at a time and date to be conveyed after consultation and approval of the senior PTI leadership.

The primary aim of this proposed press conference, Chatha said, was to create sensations and drama augmenting false narratives being built by the PTI.

Similarly, Chatha said, it was agreed that he would give sweeping and emotional statements by suggesting that all the seats were being won by the PTI candidates and that he helped in changing the entire results against the PTI. “Anyone having knowledge of the election process would know that such/ sweeping shifts cannot possibly be made in elections by the Returning Officers (ROs). However, these generalised statements were thought to be sufficient for purposes of malicious narrative building.”

It was with the same intent of creating drama and sensation that during the press Conference, Chatha said, he had stated that he attempted to commit suicide and that he should be hanged in public.

“These were well-thought statements which were made with the specific aim of creating drama and sensations, which aim was fulfilled to a large extent.”

Moving on, he noted that the name of CJP Isa was taken with the aim of creating mistrust in the general public against him. “The chief justice did not have any role in the entire election process.”

“However, I was specifically asked by said prominent leader of PTI to name the CJP. He told me that he had been specifically asked by his top leadership to do so. The aims behind naming the CJP were manifold.”

Similarly, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) SIkander Sultan Raja was named with the aim of raising questions on the entire elections process throughout Pakistan, he said.

Moreover, the former commissioner said he addressed the presser on February 17 when PTI had called for countrywide protests against rigging as part of the plan.

"In the end, I feel extremely ashamed and embarrassed for making totally false, concocted, anti-state, and malicious statement in the press conference. This activity caused embarrassment for me as well as for entire bureaucratic fraternity," he added.