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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

PTI set to stage nationwide protests against ‘rigging’ on Friday

The protest movement with rallies planned across various regions including Faisalabad, Karachi, and other parts of Punjab and Sindh.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has announced its intention to organize nationwide demonstrations on Friday, April 26 in response to what it perceives as fraudulent by-elections conducted throughout Pakistan on Sunday. The party, in partnership with the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), held a joint press conference on Monday at the PTI Central Secretariat. During the conference, PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan, PTI Secretary General and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Omar Ayub Khan, and SIC Chairman Sahibzada Hamid Raza strongly criticized the fairness of the election.

At the press briefing, PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan accused the Punjab government and Punjab Police of collaborating in election rigging. He asserted that police forces were deployed by the Punjab government to remove PTI/SIC polling agents from polling stations and accused the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of failing to ensure fair elections.

Gohar recounted an incident at a polling station where a PTI candidate’s father discovered votes had been cast before polling officially began, citing it as a clear violation of democratic norms and the rule of law. He urged the ECP not to validate election results in areas where reports of rigging had been filed and called for an investigation into such incidents, including the release of the inquiry report regarding the former Rawalpindi commissioner’s comments on election irregularities.

Omar Ayub put forwarded multiple allegations 

Ayub demanded public apologies from the leaders of all intelligence agencies in Pakistan, alleging their interference in electoral and judicial matters. He referenced evidence from six judges and a letter from the Bajaur returning officer, arguing that such incidents warranted formal apologies from the intelligence chiefs.

He highlighted the pre-polling suspension of internet services and widespread allegations of rigging in Punjab. He mentioned a complaint by a returning officer in Bajaur, alleging torture by intelligence officials, as well as a letter from six judges of the Islamabad High Court, indicating undue influence from intelligence agencies.

Additionally, Ayub pointed out instances where media personnel were reportedly detained and mistreated by Punjab Police, allegedly under pressure from intelligence agencies posing as law enforcement. He also noted a case where a PML-N candidate received more votes than Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in the by-election, suggesting potential manipulation.

Discussing incidents of violence during the by-elections, Ayub cited cases where private media personnel were allegedly mistreated by police in Gujrat.

Sahibzada Hamid Raza, head of SIC, declared plans to launch a movement in Punjab to protest against the allegedly rigged elections. Ayub further called for FIRs to be lodged against the ECP and the Punjab government for treason under Article 6.

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The protest movement is expected to gain momentum, with rallies planned across various regions including Faisalabad, Karachi, and other parts of Punjab and Sindh. PTI and SIC leaders reiterated their commitment to holding those accountable for electoral malpractice, asserting that the Movement for Protection of the Constitution of Pakistan would uphold the rule of law and the Constitution. They advocated for nationwide action against rigging and lawlessness to preserve the integrity of the electoral process.