New Delhi: Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) chief Shehbaz Sharif, who is the brother of jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, contested the results of the 2018 National Assembly elections in Pakistan as Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) seemed on course to form the government.
At a press conference called in the middle of counting, Sharif alleged that large scale rigging took place in the election and his party. “We tolerated a lot for the sake of Pakistan. We thought the election would be decided as per the free will of the people. The people came out in large numbers also. I have never seen such a scary political scene in my political career,” he told reporters.
He said that till a short while ago, results for not even a single seat in Lahore, his stronghold, had been declared. “We have videos from Dera Ghazi Khan, where women and children are kept in custody. There are reports coming in from Karachi as well,” Sharif, the outgoing Chief Minister of Punjab, said.
Even before the election, civilians, rights activists, analysts and candidates had warned of intimidation and rigging. At the centre of most allegations has been the powerful military establishment, along with its intelligence agency, known by the acronym ISI.
The manipulation is seen as seeking to prevent the Pakistan Muslim League from returning to power, while giving a shot at running the country to Imran Khan and his PTI.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has also raised questions over the validity of the election. Complaints of widespread rigging have been received. According to reports in the Pakistani Media, the results in at least 30 National Assembly (NA) seats are being deliberately withheld or delayed by Pakistan Election Commission officials.
Among the seats where there are reports of delays are the PML (N) stronghold of Lahore and the NA-246 seat of Karachi's Lyari town, where PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is contesting the election. The Pakistan Election Commission has assured the country that they are looking into the complaints of results being delayed and they will resolve them at the earliest.
Sharif claimed that polling agents of his party were thrown out. “This is blatant rigging that is taking place. This is taking Pakistan back by 30 years. The people's mandate is being disrespected. We would have accepted defeat if the process was fair. There is no place left in the country where blatant violations have not taken place. This is unacceptable. The country can't progress like this,” he said.
Asserting that his party would not accept the result, he said that he would build a consensus of all political parties that have the same complaint.
“We cannot leave this matter like this. We are winning in the Punjab Provincial Assembly. But it's not about winning or losing. It is about the future of Pakistan. The Election Commission has completely failed in its duty.”
A PML-N spokesperson said the match was always fixed in the favour of PTI. “This was a selection, not an election. Five different political parties have the same complaint. The caretaker government and election commission have both failed. This was the dirtiest election in the history of Pakistan,” he said.