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Pakistan EC rejects rigging allegations; PML-N warns of protests

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Shahbaz Sharif (C), the younger brother of ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the head of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), gestures as he speaks during a press conference at his political office in Lahore on July 25, 2018, as voting closed in general elections. One of the main candidates in Pakistan's election, Shahbaz Sharif, rejected the results of the poll as counting was still underway, alleging "blatant" rigging. "It's such a blatant rigging that everyone has started crying. Today what they have done has pushed Pakistan back 30 years... We reject this result," Sharif, who leads the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), told a press conference in Lahore. / AFP PHOTO / WAKIL KOHSAR

Islamabad: The Election Commission of Pakistan today rejected the “blatant” rigging allegations levelled by the incumbent PML-N after trends showed Imran Khan’s party was inching towards majority, saying it did “our job right.” In an unusual press conference at 4am local time, Chief Election Commissioner Muhammad Raza Khan congratulated the people of Pakistan for participating in the election process. He, however, acknowledged that the delay in announcement of election results has “caused some annoyance”.

The short pace of counting has given currency to the allegations of manipulation of the election process. The results were expected by this morning, but the CEC only announced what he called was the “first non-official, preliminary result”. The CEC stressed the delay was on account of a new system – Results Transmission System – introduced by it. “We were implementing it for the first time. Therefore, there was some delay,” Dawn online quoted him as saying. Asked about the doubts and the allegations, he said: “We will prove ourselves that we did our job right.”

The early-morning press conference came hours after Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Shahbaz Sharif in Lahore outrightly rejected the results, alleging “blatant” rigging of the election, even though the vote count was under way. Sharif warned his party would launch protests against the alleged rigging. He did not say who he believes could have rigged the polls, but allegations of manipulating the elections have been made against the country’s powerful military. “Some five other parties including PPP have raised the rigging issue in polls. After consulting them, I will announce the future course of action. Pakistan has suffered today,” he told journalists at the press conference in Lahore.


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“We will fight this injustice and use all options,” he said, adding that there has been a “blatant violation” of the mandate. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also tweeted last night, saying he had not received official results from any constituency he was contesting, despite it being past midnight. “My candidates [have been] complaining [that] polling agents have been thrown out of polling stations across the country. Inexcusable and outrageous.” According to Geo TV, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was leading on 112 seats followed by PML-N on 65, latest trends showed based on reporting of 42 per cent of polling stations. Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party was leading on 43 National Assembly seats.

At his midnight press conference, Sharif said that “these were the dirtiest polls in Pakistan’s history.”        “This is a horrible situation which I have never seen in my 30-year political career…The results of several constituencies have been withheld where PML-N candidates were winning. We will not accept this.” PML-N senator Mushahid Hussain Syed too raised similar doubts on the election results. “This is the first time in Pakistan’s history that five political parties have called a foul play in the polls and termed them massively rigged,” he said.

Shortly after the allegation were made, ECP secretary Babar Yaqoob said the Result Transmission Service failed after results of 25,000 out of 85,000 polling stations were uploaded. He too rejected any wrongdoing in the election and said “the issue of fraud can be discussed after ECP announces the results.” However, the Imran Khan-led PTI claimed victory. Sensing victory, hundreds of PTI supporters came out on streets in jubilation. They parked their vehicles in the middle of roads, played loud music and danced through the streets in several cities, including the capital Islamabad.

“We have got our Naya Pakistan,” Shahid Ali, one of the supporters, said as he danced euphorically near the busy Faizabad interchange, which links Islamabad with the garrison city of Rawalpindi. The wild celebrations led to traffic jams at many places. The Press Trust of India correspondent was caught for several hours in traffic while returning from the election coverage as highly-charged PTI workers raised victory slogans.

The victory claim and joy in the PTI camp appeared premature in the wake of rigging allegations. “Our polling agents were not given results and we will not accept it,” Khurshid Shah of PPP said. Analysts predicted tumultuous weeks ahead for Pakistan as a strong opposition to the election results was building up. “[PML-N and PPP] will make a lethal combination if they joined hands against Imran Khan,” analyst Sohail Warriach said. A party can form the government if it manages to clinch 172 seats out of the total 342. A single party will need at least 137 of the 272 directly-elected seats to be able to form the government on its own.