Pakistan’s CEC, Chief Justice involved in poll-rigging, alleges senior bureaucrat as he resigns

Rawalpindi Commissioner Liaquat Ali Chattha speaks at a press conference in Rawalpindi on February 17, 2024.
| Photo Credit: AFP

A senior Pakistani bureaucrat has stirred a hornet’s nest by alleging widespread rigging aided by the judiciary and top election body in last week’s poll against jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party.

As Rawalpindi Commissioner Liaquat Ali Chattha resigned from his post, taking the “responsibility for all this wrongdoing,” Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa termed his allegations as “baseless”.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) strongly rejected it and Khan’s rival party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) called it a case of “political allegiance” dictating the bureaucrat’s claims.

Khan, however, claimed that the “incriminating” confession served as “a stark revelation of the countrywide systematic manipulation of election results where PTI’s significant leads were deceitfully tampered into losses.” More than eight days after voting took place for the general elections, there is still no clarity on which party would form the government at the Centre.

Independent candidates – a majority of them backed by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) – won 93 of the 265 National Assembly seats and the party, which has been alleging rigging right from the polling day, has embarked on a nationwide protest against “stealing of its mandate.” PTI’s two main rivals, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) formed a post-poll alliance earlier this week.

Chattha told reporters that the candidates who were “losing” the elections “were made to win.” “I am taking the responsibility for all this wrongdoing and telling you that the Chief Election Commissioner and the Chief Justice are also completely involved in this,” quoted him as saying.

The bureaucrat said there was “pressure” on him to the extent that he contemplated suicide but then resolved to present matters before the public and said, “It is my request to the entire bureaucracy to not do anything wrong for all these politicians.” He was arrested soon after.

CJP Isa said hurling “baseless allegations” without any truth or evidence to back them up “does not hold any weightage.” “Someone can blame me for theft or murder tomorrow. If hurling allegations is your right, give me evidence along with it too,” he said but at the same time hinted that he may not initiate contempt proceedings over the allegations. “I am against contempt myself. It’s not about me but the institution.” The ECP, in a press statement, “strongly rejected” the allegations and said, no official of the election commission ever issued any instructions regarding changing the election results to Commissioner, Rawalpindi.

“Neither is the commissioner of any division ever appointed as a District Returning Officer, Returning Officer or Presiding Officer nor do they ever play a direct role in the conduct of elections,” the ECP said and added, the matter would, however, be investigated.

Imran Khan applauded the “incriminating confession by the Commissioner of Rawalpindi,” which he said confirmed “robbing PTI of at least 13 National Assembly seats in Rawalpindi Division alone.” “His statement serves as a stark revelation of the countrywide systematic manipulation of election results where PTI’s significant leads were deceitfully tampered into losses,” said a post on Khan’s official X handle.

He also called for a “fair investigation and meaningful trial of all those involved in this brazen mandate theft.” Khan’s rival Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N party drew attention to the “political allegiance” dictating Chattha’s claims and said he was a cousin of a PTI-backed candidate, Ahmed Chattha, from one of the seats.

Geo News quoted PML-N’s Punjab president Rana Sanaullah Khan, who alleged that his “friend” Chattha has had mental health issues for “quite some time.” The Human Rights Council of Pakistan, in a statement, said the involvement of the state bureaucracy in rigging in Pakistan is beginning to be exposed.

Referring to Chattha’s resignation, the statement said, “This is not a mere resignation or admission of guilt, it is a charge sheet of incompetence and negligence on the part of all govt institutions, including the Election Commission of Pakistan.” “Now the nation of Pakistan is looking towards the Supreme Court of Pakistan for justice. If Rawalpindi has been rigged so much, think how widely rigged the general elections must have been in the entire country,” it added.

Rawalpindi is one of the elite bastions in Punjab province and is also home to the country’s powerful military establishment.

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