Pakistan’s election commission launches probe into poll rigging allegations after official’s resignation

The committee will also decide whether Chattha will face contempt charges

Stuti Mishra
Sunday 18 February 2024 08:56 GMT
Pakistan Elections
Pakistan Elections (Associated Press)

A high-level investigation has been initiated in Pakistan following the resignation of a senior elections officer on Saturday, who alleged widespread manipulation of polling results.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has formed a committee that will record statements from district polling officials and submit a report within three days.

The investigation was initiated following the resignation of Rawalpindi city’s commissioner, Liaquat Ali Chattha, who admitted to manipulating results and claimed he was pressured by the country’s senior officials.

"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,” Mr Chattha told a room full of reporters on Saturday.

His accusations surfaced amid nationwide protests by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party against perceived rigging in the 8 February elections.

Mr Chattha claimed the candidates who were “losing” the elections “were made to win” in the city.

He claimed that 13 candidates from Rawalpindi were forcefully declared winners.

Mr Chattha also said the pressure on him was so intense that he contemplated self-harm, but later decided to expose the matter in front of the media because “stabbing the country in its back does not let” him sleep.

“I should be punished for the injustice I have done and others who were involved in this injustice should also be punished,” he told reporters.

“It is my request to the entire bureaucracy to not do anything wrong for all these politicians.”

The ECP has rejected the allegations but said it will investigate the claims.

The committee will also decide whether Mr Chattha will face contempt charges.

The senior official’s expose drew the ire of many ministers and officials, including the information minister of the state of Punjab, Amir Mir, who said Mr Chattha was “trying to kick start his political career after he retires.”

The newly-appointed Rawalpindi Commissioner, Saif Anwar Jappa, also dismissed the allegations, adding that the former commissioner's role was solely for coordination during the polls.

The controversy further erodes trust in the country’s electoral system, following an unusually prolonged delay in determining who will form the government.

Meanwhile, a nationwide disruption in the social media platform, X's service was reported in Pakistan, linked to the "escalating unrest and protests" over election fraud allegations, according to Internet tracking organisation NetBlocks.

In the 8 February elections, independent candidates, mostly backed by Mr Khan’s PTI, won 93 of the 265 National Assembly seats.

PTI's rivals, Pakistan Muslim League-N and Pakistan People's Party, are forming a coalition government after a post-poll alliance. To govern, a party must secure 133 seats out of 265 contested seats in the 266-member National Assembly.

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