On Saturday, the federal ministers of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) declared victory in the by-elections for the National Assembly constituency NA-75 even after the Election Commission of Pakistan stated that the results may be falsified.
In a statement earlier today, ECP said that the results of 20 polling stations might have been falsified in the by-election for the NA-75 (Daska) constituency as the PML-N alleged massive rigging. The commission also noted that the results were received after “unnecessary delay”, and the commission would not contact the presiding officers during this time.
The NA-75 seat for the National Assembly became vacant after PML-N MNA Sahibazada Syed Iftikharul Hassan Shah’s demise.
After the ECP’s public statement on the NA-75 by-polls, the Federal Minister of Information and leader of the ruling PTI said in a tweet, “Results received by our polling agents in NA-75 Daska suggest we have won the election by over 7000 votes. An election we had lost by over 30000 in the last election.”
Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry congratulated Ali Asjad Malhi, PTI’s candidate, on “conquering the Daska battle” and demanded the ECP to announce the result “immediately”. “The patience of PTI workers should not be tested,” he said in a tweet. “Respect will be for the law, not for [PML-N].”
“[For the] first time in Pakistan, an election has been held in which there is no government interference,” he said in another tweet, “[during the] by-elections which were conducted by PPP and PML-N, people used to say that the elections are formal, the government will end up winning. Look at their attitude even now; elections are fair where they win, [when] they lose, they scream rigging.”
Nine candidates are in the race, and of them, the main candidates are PML-N’s Nousheen Iftikhar Shah and PTI’s Ali Asjad Malhi. According to unofficial results, the PML-N managed to retain the seat.
“The chief election commissioner tried to contact the Punjab inspector general of police, commissioner and deputy commissioner on receiving information from the district returning officer (DRO) and returning officer (RO) so the whereabouts of the presiding officers concerned could be ascertained but received no response,” read the statement.
The Chief Election Commissioner contacted the Punjab Chief Secretary, who reassured that the results would be sent after tracing the ‘missing’ officers and polling bags; however, the Punjab Chief Secretary himself became “unavailable”, according to the ECP statement. The statement further said that the presiding officers appeared along with the polling bags around six in the morning.
“The DRO and RO of the NA-75 (Sialkot) constituency informed [the ECP] that there is a suspicion of falsification in the results from 20 polling stations. Therefore, it is not possible to release the initial results without a complete inquiry. The DRO is sending a complete report on the matter to the Election Commission.”
The statement said the ECP had stopped the DRO and RO from announcing the initial results for the by-election and directed them to conduct a complete inquiry and identify those responsible for the irregularities and mismangement. It also directed the provincial election commissioner and joint provincial election commissioner to reach the office of the DRO and RO so that “[we] can reach the bottom of the matter and records can be completely protected”.
“This matter looks like a weakness of the administration and law enforcement agencies,” the ECP added.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz shared a video which showed the party’s secretary-general Ahsan Iqbal and deputy secretary-general Ataullah Tarar, claiming that “preparations are being made to attempt to steal the PML-N’s already won seat”.
Former Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal demanded that the ECP should seperate the ballots from the 23 polling stattions which saw massive irregularities and conduct a forensic audit of them.
Such an audit would be able to seprate bogus votes from the authentic ones, while also showing if there existed any pattern of bogus votes towards any particular party.
“They are holding the results [of this election] to save their dignity after losing. Whose custody [is the missing staff] in? Who has kidnapped them? The nation and we all want an answer,” he said.
The by-election in the NA-75 constituency also saw a breakout of violence. A firing incident at the polling station claimed the lives of two people and three were injured in a firing incident at a polling station in Daska, a day earlier.
One of the victims was reportedly a member of the ruling PTI, while the other belonged to the PML-N. Furtheermore, local eyewitnesses report that one of the injured was a PTI polling agent.