Sarwar says the party will reveal this week evidence of rigging in NA-122 by-polls
LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) criticised the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Saturday saying that it had been unable to provide “proper voter lists” to party’s candidates for local government elections.
“As many as 1,000 votes have been kept hidden in almost every union council,” PTI provincial organiser Chaudhry Sarwar told a press conference.
Lahore organiser Shafqat Cheema and deputy provincial organiser Umer Sarfaraz were also present.
Sarwar also blamed the ECP for the misprinting of electoral symbols on ballot papers.
He said the voter lists used for preparing polling schemes were different from those provided to PTI candidates.
He said the party had been promised that it would be provided ECP-certified lists for the next phase of the elections. “The party was also promised voter lists for the NA-122 by-polls.
We are still waiting for those,” he said.
He accused some SHOs of acting on PML-N leaders’ directives. However, he said senior police officers had cooperated with the party after it raised the issue. “We can only request the ruling party to not politicise state institutions. Doing so will ruin the system,” Sarwar said.
Shafqat Mahmood said the ECP should have checked ballot papers before issuing them to polling stations. “This is negligence on part of the commission,” he said. Cheema said PTI’s polling agents in Gujrat and Faisalabad were forced to sit far from the polling booths to prevent effective monitoring.
Speaking to the media later, Sarwar said the trained polling agents of the PTI had promptly pointed irregularities in Saturday’s vote. “The results are being compiled. It is still too early to make a sweeping statement regarding rigging.”
Sarwar also said the party would reveal this week the evidence of rigging in the NA-122 by-polls.
Early sentiment: ‘We did well, we must celebrate’
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), in a break with recent practice, celebrated the efforts of its candidates in local government elections on Saturday regardless of how they had fared in the 274 union councils of the city.
The mood was solemn but party leaders led the celebration at chairman’s secretariat as results poured in.
They also invited party workers and supporters to join them. “Although the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is leading according to initial results, the PTI has put up a great fight. This is very encouraging,” PTI Lahore organiser Shafqat Mahmood told The Express Tribune.
Punjab organiser Chaudhry Sarwar said all PTI workers and candidates must be praised for participating in the polls with great zeal. “None of our candidates withdrew from the contest despite being under immense pressure from the ruling party,” he said. Sarwar had earlier claimed that PTI workers and candidates had been harassed by the PML-N and some police officials.
Punjab deputy organiser Umer Sarfaraz Cheema said that winning even a single seat “amounts to an overall victory for us”. “We fought against state-backed candidates… contesting elections in such a situation is a great effort,” Cheema said. “Our candidates remained steadfast. The party is celebrating their commitment.”
MPA Shoaib Siddiqi said the party’s representation at grassroots was a major milestone. “If this threatens our political opponents, it is a reason good enough to celebrate,” he said. “It’s not about how many seats we will win. It’s about the commitment our workers and candidates showed despite being harassed and coerced.”
He accused some police officials of harassing PTI candidates in Union Council 81. “The UC is part of the constituency where the PTI won a provincial seat in the recent by-poll in NA-122,” he said.
Siddiqi said some of the PTI polling agents had been “thrown out of polling stations” in UC 123. He said complaints in this regard had been registered with the returning officers concerned and with police.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2015.