Wednesday September 22, 2021

Daska by-poll ‘rigging’: Initial inquiries show no establishment role, says Sana

February 23, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Senior PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah has said that his party’s initial probe into the alleged rigging in the NA-75 Daska by-poll has not revealed any footprint of the military establishment, while former prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani is also of the opinion that the establishment seemed to be ‘completely neutral’.

Talking to The News, Rana Sana said that the provincial government, local administration and police were found involved and the ‘missing presiding officers’ operation was conducted under the command of a DSP.

Sanaullah said that the 20 ‘missing’ presiding officers were taken with their consent by special branch officials to a farmhouse belonging to a Haji Imtiaz where the Punjab chief minister’s media adviser Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan was allegedly also present.

The PML-N leader alleged that DSP Zulfiqar Virk conducted the operation. He said that Virk was initially appointed as DSP in Daska by the provincial government to manage the by-elections. Following the opposition’s complaints and after the intervention of the Election Commission of Pakistan, he was removed as DSP Daska but posted in the Special Branch and deputed in the same area.

He said that the deputy commissioner and local administration were also involved in appointing choice presiding officers at selected polling stations. Sensing that the PTI was losing the elections, he added, the selected presiding officers of 20 selected polling stations were taken to the farmhouse with their consent.

Since the PML-N candidate, he said, was winning the election with a margin of over 3,000 votes, those present in the farmhouse added around 11,000 PTI votes to the tally to make the PTI candidate the winner. Owing to this, he said, the voter turn-out in those specific 20 polling stations sky-rocketed to 80-90 percent while in the other polling stations it remained below 40 percent. Sanaullah said that the ‘missing’ presiding officers had disappeared separately but were taken to the Returning Office together after having been ‘recovered’ by DSP Virk.

When asked if the PML-N has so far found any involvement of the military establishment in the Daska by-poll rigging, Rana Sanaullah said, “no”. The entire operation, he said, was conducted in a very crude manner with the involvement of the provincial government, local civil administration and police with DSP Zulfiqar Virk playing the key role.

He said that the election staff in the field was managed by the provincial government through the deputy commissioner and other officials of the local civil administration.

Meanwhile, the ECP withheld the result of the NA-75 Sialkot by-poll and announced that around two dozen presiding officers had gone missing along with polling bags. The Election Commission had expressed its fear that the results, shared by the missing presiding officers after a delay of at least six hours beyond the normal time, had been compromised and put on hold the announcement of the unconfirmed results.

The Election Commission maintained that the results of NA-75 were received after an inordinate delay and explained that several attempts were made to contact the presiding officers but these proved fruitless. It was also pointed out that the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) himself tried contacting the Punjab inspector general of police (IGP) and the relevant commissioner as well as deputy commissioner on receiving information from the district returning officer (DRO) and returning officer (RO) about the presiding officers who had gone missing but failed to establish contact with them.

The Punjab chief secretary was contacted at around 3:00 am to give an assurance of tracing the ‘missing’ presiding officers and recovering the polling bags for the NA-75 results, the ECP said, adding that he too had “made himself unavailable”.

Asim Yasin adds: Former prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani stated that it appeared as if the establishment is "completely neutral", as the Pakistan Democratic Movement's (PDM) parties, the PPP and the PML-N beat the ruling party in the by-elections for three seats.

The PPP leader, who has been nominated as the joint Senate candidate for the PDM, thanked the Opposition parties for putting their faith in him.

"I am extremely grateful to the PDM for expressing confidence in me," he said. "The PDM gave me its ticket [for Senate elections], I will represent the PDM," he added.

The former prime minister said that he had gotten elected in 2008 as the prime minister of the country through a consensus, adding that he had secured 264 votes to become prime minister after the 2008 general elections.

"I secured the votes on the basis of my cordial relations [with parliamentarians]," he said. The ex-premier said he would go individually to meet each member of the PDM.

"My victory in the Senate elections will be a victory for the forces of democracy," he said, congratulating the PDM for its candidates' victory in the recent elections.

The former prime minister refuted speculation that he met PTI leader Jahangir Tareen. "I have neither met Jahangir Tareen neither established contact with him," he said.

Yusuf Raza Gilani, along with the PPP delegation, held meeting with PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman and discussed the upcoming Senate elections. Gilani deliberated upon the ongoing political situation in the country with Fazlur Rehman.

Gilani said he was thankful to all the parties of the PDM for showing their confidence in him for the Senate elections. He said he had received the confidence of the whole House when he was elected as a prime minister with consensus and now he would get the votes in the upcoming Senate elections on the basis of performance.

Fazlur Rehman said Yusuf Raza Gilani is a joint candidate of the PDM and he will be successful in the upcoming Senate elections. He said since the name of Yusuf Raza Gilani was announced as the joint candidate of the PDM, there was panic in the ruling elite. “There was distrust and disturbance in the ranks of the rulers,” he said.

He said all the allied parties of the PDM were united and on same page and will contest the Senate elections from the PDM platform.