- PML-N rejects preliminary election result, alleging ‘massive irregularities’, PPP, MQM-P, MMA, others join in the chorus as Imran Khan’s PTI leads the race
- PTI leading in 109 NA seats as per 26% vote count, PML-N follows with 67 seats, PPP likely to win 38
- PML-N leading electoral race in Punjab, PTI sweeps KP, PPP frontrunner in Sindh and BAP is in comfortable position in Balochistan
ISLAMABAD/LAHORE/KARACHI: Accusations of widespread irregularities by almost all major political parties have raised questions about the transparency of the General Election 2018 held on Wednesday, as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led by Imran Khan looks all set to becoming the single largest party in the National Assembly, as per 26 per cent vote count till 2am.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) late on Wednesday rejected the preliminary results that showed PTI to have won 109 NA seats of the total 272.
In a late night press conference, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif lashed out at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the caretaker federal and provincial governments, alleging “massive irregularities” during the polling.
“I have received complaints from all over Pakistan,” the former Punjab chief minister said, adding, “What happened today has taken Pakistan 30 years back.”
‘SELECTION, NOT ELECTION’:
Accusing the ECP of prejudice, the party president said the watchdog denied PML-N the Form 45, which contains the total number of votes cast. He further said the PML-N will contact other parties to jointly come up with a strategy in this regard.
Speaking on the occasion, party spokesperson Mushahid Hussain Syed said that their party’s polling agents were asked to leave the polling stations, stressing that “this was selection, not election”.
Another PML-N spokesperson, Marriyum Aurangzeb alleged that in constituencies where the PML-N candidates were winning, the election results were stopped and counting was carried out behind “closed doors”.
PPP, MQM, PSP and MMA joined in the chorus, as they echoed similar concerns over the conduct of the election.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said, “My candidates [have been] complaining [that] polling agents have been thrown out of polling stations across the country. Inexcusable and outrageous.”
Opposition Leader in the Senate and PPP leader Sherry Rehman said that her party has serious reservations as their polling agents had not been allowed to enter the polling stations and they were not given Form 45 either.
“The whole elections could be declared null and void, if the ECP fails to address our grievances,” said Sherry, claiming that they received over 250 complaints of their polling agents being expelled from polling stations.
PPP Senator Raza Rabbani said that irregularities were reported from Jacobabad, Badin and other parts of Sindh.
“Such practices will have dire consequences,” he said. “You can’t count the votes in the absence of party’s polling agent.”
“We have been warning against pre-poll rigging since day one,” Raza Rabbani said. “We had already said that the ECP had failed to provide political parties a level playing field.”
Separately, MQM-P leader Faisal Sabzwari alleged that the party’s polling agents were thrown out during the vote count from polling stations and the local officials of the ECP refused to hand over the final results to the party representatives.
Subzwari alleged that the MQM-P’s representatives were thrown out from NA-249’s Salahuddin school polling station 89, and from a polling station in Gulzar-e-Hijri Metroville.
The MQM-P leader raised questions over the competence of the ECP in holding transparent and non-controversial polls.
PSP’s central leader Raza Haroon, in an unscheduled media talk, alleged that the party’s polling agents have been told by the officials to collect the results from returning officers.
Similarly, far right parties, including TLP and MMA, raised questions over the conduct of the polls, alleging their polling agents were removed from the polling stations.
‘ECP’S HANDS ARE CLEAN’:
ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob rubbished the claims made by almost all political parties, saying the ECP was being impartial during the polling and asked for evidence from the political parties to back up their claims to “address their complaints”.
“If any of the parties are not getting Form 45 containing tabulated results of the polling station, then they should inform us,” he added, insisting that there was no dearth of the form 45.
Yaqoob clarified that only legitimised number of polling agents can enter a polling station, and the rule can’t be violated, reportedly adding the “agents of losing candidates left them polling stations of their accord”.
On the other hand, the provincial election commissioner in Punjab categorically rejected the allegations levelled by the PML-N saying, “Political leaders should refrain from levelling such baseless allegations without having any substantial proof.”
Meanwhile, the ECP said that the complete results of the election could not be obtained from the districts due to a technical breakdown in the Result Management System (RMS).
After a political career that spanned over 22 years, Imran Khan seems to have learned the ‘science of election’ by roping in a large number of ‘electables’ which his rivals have repeatedly alleged were coerced into joining the PTI by the country’s powerful military establishment.
Based on reporting of 26% of the vote count, PTI is ahead with 109 seats, PML-N is trailing behind with 67 while PPP is at the third spot with 38 seats.
In Punjab, with results from 19% polling stations available with the ECP, the PML-N is currently leading the race with 137 provincial seats but PTI is closing in with 115 seats.
Meanwhile, PTI is clearly steering ahead in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with 62 seats against the ANP, which currently has 10 seats, as per reporting from 16pc polling stations in the province.
In Sindh, PPP is leading with 54 seats while the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) is following with 11 seats.
Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) is leading in Balochistan with 9 seats followed by Balochistan National Party (BNP) with 6 seats while independent candidates are leading in 7 constituencies.
Earlier in the day, balloting at some of the polling station faced brief interruptions across the country, some because of violence and some because of technicalities, including load shedding and lack of ballot papers.
In Lahore, NA-123 faced delay because of a clash between the workers of the PTI and the PML-N, while polling in the NA-130 was briefly disrupted because of shortage of ballot papers.
In Peshawar’s NA-29, voters and polling staff faced difficulties due to excessive load shedding.
In addition to long queues, polling did not begin till 1:00 pm at two polling stations of Karachi’s NA-241. The process of voting was temporarily halted at a station in Upper Dir’s NA-5 constituency after alleged rigging, in Larkana’s NA-200 and PS-11 constituencies after an explosion.
NO EXTENSION IN POLLING TIME:
The ECP also rejected requests from PML-N and PPP to extend the time for another hour.
Following the sluggish voting trend, the two political parties, besides MQM-P and Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rasheed, had requested the election watchdog for an extension in the polling time due to “voters standing in long lines in the hot and humid weather”.
In an emergency press conference called by the PML-N, party spokesperson Senator Mushahid Hussain, “Voting is a fundamental right of every citizen and to ensure that citizens exercise their right, the ECP should extend polling time.” The presser followed a letter that the party had sent to the electoral body seeking extension.