Thursday February 22, 2024

No rigging probe on external pressure: PM

Pakistan is a sovereign state and will not bow to any pressure: says PM

February 13, 2024
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar talks to National and foreign media in a press conference at the PM  House on February 12, 2024. — APP
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar talks to National and foreign media in a press conference at the PM  House on February 12, 2024. — APP

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar on Monday rejected that Pakistan will investigate into alleged rigging into Fen 8 general elections under anyone’s pressure.

During a press conference at the PM House, Kakar was asked to comment on demand of the United States and UK to investigate to allegations of rigging and delay in announcement of results.

The interim PM asked that whether Pakistan had asked the US to investigate into Capitol Hill riots. “Pakistan is a sovereign state and will not bow to any pressure,” he added.

He observed that other countries and international forums make their assumption and opinions based on fractured information on social media. “If there are any allegation, we will look into them according to our own laws and no demand of any other country,” he said.

To a question regarding resolutions moved by some US Congressmen, he said that they should not be taken as ‘sacrosanct’ or gospel truth as they were not speaking on part of the government.

However, about constitution of any commission on allegations of rigging, he said it would up to the upcoming elected government. “These are presumptions that there was any hidden pressure for February 8 elections and every political force enjoyed level-playing field,” he said.

Kakar said he knew those talking about hidden pressure were referring to any role of establishment. “I did not talk to the army chief with regard to such allegations,” he said while responding to a question.

He pointed out that there was heaviest deployment of troops in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on February 08 and independent candidates returned successful and emerged as largest group. “They have gained such results in the province which they could not dreamt few years back,” he said.

The interim PM insisted that the caretaker set-up ensured level-playing to all and that was why independent candidates emerged as the largest single group on the national and provincial assembly seats. “The allegations of rigging generated on social media were based on misconceptions and against ground realities,” he said.

When asked as to why he was defending the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the caretaker prime minister said that the ECP was constitutional institution and it accomplished the task which it was assigned to it. “I am correct in defending ECP and it is my moral duty to defend them,” he said.

He said the official results were announced within 36 hours while during 2018 elections, it took almost 66 hours. There might be irregularities but the relevant forums were available to address these grievances while Sweden, the similar exercise almost took 10 to 11 days while in Indonesia, almost a month was consumed to furnish results.

To another question, Kakar said that mobile phone services were suspended on the poll day due to security threats as the government could not compromise on the security of people. “We could afford delay in announcement of result but could not afford any terrorist activity,” he maintained.

To a question, he said that it was absurd and vulgar analogy to relate the situation arising out of February 08 elections.

“These are the mere rhetoric. Pakistan is a very stable and responsible country. Holding of peaceful protest is the democratic right of the people,” he said and maintained that no government could allow the situation leading to chaos or anarchy.

To a question, he said that it was right of everybody and every party to stage peaceful protest and it would be fascism if the government does not allow the same.

He also agreed with the president’s views over the need of introduction of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and said that according to his personal view, the political parties should hold threadbare discussions in the next parliament over this issue and legislate if required so that the new electoral system could be more acceptable to all. “It will be upcoming Parliament to decide about EVMs as it is also matter of reputations of politicians,” he said.

He was optimistic that after the current transitional period was over and the new government was formed, there would be a positive wave hitting the markets and businesses, adding that economic challenges would still await the next government.

The caretaker PM also lauded the law enforcement agencies for ensuring peaceful elections from 8 am to 5 pm without break on February 08. “Transition of democracy despite heavy challenges in terms of security, terrorism and economic challenges, internal chaos, and hostile neighborhood is commendable,” he said.

Meanwhile the ECP, in the first post-general election ‘policy statement’, rejected the allegations of rigging in the elections but said there is no denying the occasional incidents, for which relevant forums are available for redressal.

The commission said it was receiving related complaints even after office hours these days and immediate decisions are being taken on them.

For the successful conduct of the elections, it pointed out, keeping the election process peaceful and orderly, ensuring the safety of the lives of the polling staff, safe transportation of polling material, and the correct results were the most important priorities that were put first over all other factors.

The commission emphasised that it was inappropriate to put human lives at risk for the sake of speeding up the results or to make the accuracy of the results questionable: Incidents of terrorism in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially the martyrdom of security personnel and civilians at various places near the elections, made the conduct of elections a challenge.

In such a situation, it said, there was a danger of jeopardising the entire election process by risking human lives to speed up the election process and especially the results, to which priority measures were taken to prevent it.

The commission explained that on the advice of the security agencies, the caretaker federal government, in addition to the closure of mobile phones, ensured transportation in the form of groups to keep the polling process peaceful and orderly and to protect the polling staff and polling material.

However, it noted, due to non-availability of mobile network, lack of communication, long distances of polling stations located in remote places, travel in the darkness of night, the intensity of weather and snow in some areas, while and in some places, the supporters of the losing candidates staged sit-ins, causing difficulties in transportation. Helicopters also had to be used to transport polling staff and polling materials in some areas of Balochistan.

The ECP said that before and during the election process, the election watchdog was facing immense challenges, for which various steps were taken from time to time. It was also widely reported that the elections would not be held on the scheduled date. The ECP took all possible practical steps to dispel this impression and conducted the elections on the scheduled date.

In order to ease the security situation and coordination in many parts of the country, the offices of five to six returning officers were set up at one place. The crowd also gathered, which made it difficult for the polling staff to submit the polling material, which also affected the arrangement and editing of the election results, it said.

However, the commission claimed that in the areas where the election results were delayed, there was a mixed trend of results, and no single party was benefited or harmed in any way.

On the widely discussed issue of the new election management system, the commission explained that the primary task of the EMS was to prepare and edit the results submitted by the presiding officers to the RO offices and form 47 (inconclusive result) had to be prepared at the RO office, and the results were to be announced while the presiding officers at polling stations had to prepare form 45 and send it electronically to the RO concerned.

The ECP ‘policy statement’ said that under Section 90 of the Elections Act 2017, the presiding officer had to reach RO office in person and that it is important to clarify that the EMS system installed in RO offices was not dependent on connectivity and that it worked satisfactorily.

However, it pointed out the EMS mobile app installed in the phones of the presiding officers needed cellular connectivity to send 45 electronically. Since cellular signals were switched off for security reasons, the presiding officers were unable to send electronic data to the ROs.

Moreover, the overall process of normal coordination and administrative transportation was badly affected by the closure of mobile signals, which led to further delays. “It is important to mention that in the 2018 general elections, the first result was received at 4 am while in 2024 the first result was received at 2 am,” it claimed.

Similarly, in 2018, the results were completed in about three days, while this time the election results were completed in one and a half days except in some constituencies delays were witnessed.

Despite these difficulties and problems, the ECP said it was able to keep the election process peaceful and orderly on February 8. It was a huge operation that was successfully completed, which was acknowledged by civil society organisations, local and global observers and the media, and they praised the polling arrangements, training of polling staff, discipline at polling stations and participation of a large number of people in the voting process, which is a testimony to the success of the election process.

The ECP thanked the caretaker federal government, caretaker provincial governments, law enforcement agencies, Pakistan Army, other agencies and polling staff for the peaceful conduct of the elections.