The Election Commission Pakistan (ECP) has surrendered before the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) which alleged that attempts are being made to rig the upcoming by-polls in the Punjab and announced that elections in 20 constituencies will be held on the basis of old voters lists.

In a statement issued on Friday, the ECP said that the media reports regarding registration of votes were “unfounded and based on propaganda to mislead the masses.”

ECP spokesman Haroon Shinwari pointed out that the electoral rolls were frozen after the announcement of the by-poll schedule and could not be changed under the law. No vote could be added or deleted nor could a change in the particulars of voters be made till the culmination of the electoral process, he added.

Rejecting the “propaganda” about registration of voters as baseless, the spok­e­sman said that the ECP, in cooperation with other institutions, was determined to hold free and fair elections in the Punjab.

He strongly condemned what it called “baseless allegations” levelled against the chief election commissioner (CEC) by Imran Khan, saying no institution becomes treasonous simply with an edict issued against it.

He stated that the ECP “will continue to make decisions in accordance with the Constitution and the law, without fear or favour”.

He also responded to Asad Umar’s news conference during which the PTI secretary general launched a barrage of allegations against the electoral body.

“The media-driven vote registration statements are baseless and contrary to the reality. It is a gross propaganda technique by which the people are being misled. The Election Commission is committed to conducting transparent and peaceful elections in 20 supplementary constituencies in collaboration with other institutions and this will be ensured,” he said.

Earlier, an ECP official told a news channel that the PTI’s stepped-up campaign against the commission appears to be linked to the foreign funding case against the party.

He pointed out that the campaign against the ECP and its chief had gone to a new height after the commission reserved its verdict in the case.

He maintained that the case would be decided on merit without succumbing to any pressure whatsoever.

ASAD UMAR: Meanwhile, former federal minister and PTI Secretary General Asad Umar once again alleged that voters’ lists were being changed to rig the upcoming by-polls in Punjab.

Speaking at a press conference, he alleged voters were being illegally registered in these constituencies.

The law “clearly says votes cannot be changed once the election date is announced,” but new votes had been registered in the electoral rolls, Asad added.

“They are mostly those whose temporary or permanent addresses do not fall in that constituency […] It is a test for the [Election Commission of Pakistan] and courts.”

He said petitions had already been filed but regretted that the ECP had not taken any action.

Criticising the electoral watchdog, Asad advised it to allot itself an election symbol as well since it was “behaving like a political party”.

He warned that the country could get into a “difficult situation” if the public saw the ECP was “not doing justice or behaving like a silent spectator over violations of law.”

Several PTI leaders, including its chief and former prime minister Imran Khan, have in recent days levelled allegations of interference to change the results of the upcoming by-polls. They have also alleged change in voters’ lists and the use of state machinery to benefit former PTI lawmakers contesting the July 17 polls with the backing of ruling parties.

In Friday’s press conference Asad asked his party workers to fully prepare for the upcoming elections. “Whatever they do, the PTI will win with a big majority on July 17. Once Punjab goes out of their (the government’s) hands, what will the imported prime minister do in Islamabad? We are heading towards new elections.”

Citing ‘surveys’, he insisted that the PTI was “leading” in all constituencies they had visited.

“And it is not surprising, especially with the extraordinary increase in Imran Khan’s popularity in the last few months,” he added. “And the most welcome aspect is that all social classes of the nation, from the lowest-earning to the most educated, are uniting.”

“By-elections will be held on the 17th and then chief minister’s election on 22nd, after which this story will come to an end,” the former minister said. “But they are not ready to go away so easily.”

He lamented how the law and the constitution were allegedly “being violated” and the people “harassed and terrorised”.

He alleged that assistant commissioners and district commissioners were making “direct calls” to officials in Punjab. “Our people are being threatened and cases registered,” he added.

Replying to a question, the PTI secretary general said the party’s fight was against injustice, undemocratic attitudes and foreign interference. “It is not against one individual, it is an ideological battle,” he emphasised.

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