LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: All the political parties, except the PTI, alleged that there was widespread rigging in the general elections held as there was not transparency in the conduct of polls on Wednesday and said the results were not provided to them through the official form i.e. Form No 45.
On the other hand, the ECP said there was no shortage of Form No 45, which had been provided to all the polling agents of all the political parties and candidates at the polling stations. It added that the polling agents of the losing candidates themselves did not obtain the forms. The commission said that their system was down due to heavy uploading and there was no conspiracy in the delay of results.
But the strongest reaction came from the PML-N, as its president Shahbaz Sharif called it the worst and most blatant rigging in the country’s history, which was unacceptable and unbearable.
Addressing a press conference at the PML-N headquarters in Model Town, Shahbaz said the ECP had failed to organise transparent elections. His party had tolerated the worst pre-poll rigging in the country’s history in the lead-up to the elections, he added.
“These steps in the form of political manoeuvring, PML-N candidates being pressurised and being forced to leave the party, arrest of over 16,000 PML-N workers and many more were plain for anyone to see,” he added.
However, Shahbaz said, he was hopeful that at least the people’s right to elect their representatives through the power of vote would be respected on the Election Day. But the Election Day rigging was worse than the pre-poll rigging and the level of election results engineering witnessed by him had no precedent and Pakistan had been pushed back 30 years, he added.
Shahbaz said the PML-N polling agents were forced out of the rooms where the counting was being done and Form No 45, which mentions the official result in the presence of the polling agents, was not given to them. Instead, results on a plain paper were handed to the polling agents after the counting was done behind closed doors, he said.
The PML-N president said he had video evidence of the tactics employed and mentioned the example of DG Khan where women polling agents were held hostage in a separate room with their families crying outside, fearing their well being. He added that similar incidents took place in Vehari, Bhakkar, in the constituency of Abdul Majeed, Awais Leghari, and many others, including in Lahore.
“It is well beyond 12 am and all results from Lahore have been blocked. It has been such blatant rigging that even someone as peaceful as me could not stay quiet. I kept my lips sealed over what happened over the past year for progression of democracy, but what has happened after 6:00 pm is unacceptable and unbearable. I am the party president. Whatever would have been the result, I would have accepted, but with all this happening, it seems highly unlikely,” he said.
“It is for the first time in the country’s history that not just one, not two, but five major political parties have expressed exactly same objections over the election process. I am calling an emergency meeting of the PML-N Central Executive Committee and we will talk with all these parties which have faced this rigging and will decide about the future course of action,” said Shehbaz.
Speaking on the occasion, Mushahid Hussain Sayed said, “It is now clear it was not election, it was selection. It had been decided beforehand who to install, who to eliminate.” “These were the dirtiest elections in the history of the country that were smudged with the worst pre-poll rigging and were topped off with the most blatant Election Day results rigging. The ECP is spreading chaos in the county,” he added.
Musadik Malik and Marriyum Aurangzeb said the ECP secretary was not telling the truth and misleading the country, as the PML-N had provided every little detail. “People threatened, pressurised, beaten up, we have video evidence. Rangers and police had sealed the polling stations where polling agents were forced out of rooms where counting was going on and were kept as hostages in the polling station,” Malik said.
Similarly, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said he had not received official results from any constituency he was contesting from. “My candidates [are] complaining [that] polling agents have been thrown out of polling stations across the country,” he said in a tweet posted after midnight and added that it was inexcusable and outrageous.
Earlier, Senator Sherry Rehman said the PPP had expressed concern over pre-poll rigging and her party’s polling agents polling agents were expelled during the counting process. The PPP had received more than 250 complaints in that regard, she said.
Addressing a press conference, she said, “There seems to be a clear trend of interference in the polling process,” and added that her party had asked the ECP to extend polling time, but the request was turned down.
She urged the authorities concerned to take the polling agents into confidence as it was the right way to ensure transparency in the elections, otherwise the PPP would not accept the results.
Similarly, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, who also heads MMA, has decided to summon an All Parties Conference soon over the rigged results, as he in a statement said, “The rigged results are unacceptable to the alliance.”
Meanwhile, the PSP, BNP chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal, MQM and Tehreek-e-Labaik too expressed similar concerns and said there was a systematic rigging. On the other hand, ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob said the PML-N had raised reservations over the Form No 45, but there was no shortage of those and had issued to the polling agents.
However, action would be taken against the responsible, if any lapse was found, he told a press conference and added that the ECP would issue the results after the completion of counting.
To a question, he said there was no truth in ousting of the polling agents from the polling stations and dispelled the impression of halting election results at any stage.
Babar Yaqoob clarified that the only reason for the delay in issuance of election results is a technical fault in the newly-launched Results Transmission System, which crashed at 6:00pm on Wednesday when thousands of polling officers began using it at the same time."There is no pressure and there is no conspiracy. We have not withheld any results. The delay is due to a fault in the Results Transmission System," he said while talking to media. He said the system was being used for the first time, and had not been tested for handling stress, he admitted.
He further said that complaints from political parties regarding katchi receipts being issued instead of Form 45 were being considered and assured that action would be taken on all genuine complaints.
The Elections Act describes the punishment for those presiding officers who are found to have violated the requirement, he said when asked what measures would be taken.
Babar Yaqoob said he had talked in detail with district returning officers of Lahore and Rawalpindi, who said in categorical terms that their offices were open and any one could approach with complaint if any for redressal.
The ECP secretary maintained that they were informed that in some cases, polling agents of some candidates, who anticipated not good results, had left without obtaining Form-45. Babar Yaqoob said that any specific complaint shared, would be looked into.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission issued a statement with regards to a joint news conference by PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif and other senior leaders in Lahore.
The Election Commission said that without evidence, such allegations should not be levelled that their polling agents were told to leave polling stations. It said the Punjab election commissioner had strongly set this allegation aside.
However, it was learnt that there were some connectivity issues at the field level for the Election Commission had established over 85,000 polling stations throughout Pakistan, impeding swift transmission of results to the Election Commission Secretariat.
Meanwhile, Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Muhammad Raza said all institutions had fully cooperated with the Election Commission for the conduct of elections.
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