Senior bureaucrat confesses he helped rig Pakistan’s general elections - GulfToday

Senior bureaucrat confesses he helped rig Pakistan’s general elections


Commissioner Liaquat Ali Chattha (L) speaks at a press conference in Rawalpindi on Saturday. (R) An election official empties a ballot box on election day in Karachi. AFP

Tariq Butt, Correspondent, AFP

A senior bureaucrat said on Saturday he helped rig Pakistan's elections, a week after polls marred by allegations of manipulation returned no clear winner.

Liaqat Ali Chattha, commissioner of the garrison city of Rawalpindi, where the country's powerful military has its headquarters, said he would hand himself over to police. Chattha said he personally supervised rigging of votes in Rawalpindi, before stepping down from his post.

There have been widespread allegations of rigging after authorities switched off the country's mobile phone network on election day and the count took more than 24 hours.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), short of a majority, has announced a partnership with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and a handful of smaller parties to form the next government.

LiaquatAli-Chatta-Pindi Liaquat Ali Chattha speaks at a press conference in Rawalpindi on Saturday. AFP

Speaking to reporters at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium, he said there was "pressure” on him to the extent that he contemplated suicide today but then resolved to present matters before the public instead of meeting ‘haram’ death.

"It is my request to the entire bureaucracy to not do anything wrong for all these politicians,” Chattha said and added that "stabbing the country in its back does not let me sleep.” "I should be punished for the injustice I have done and others who were involved in this injustice should also be punished.”

He said independent candidates (belonging to the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf or PTI) who were winning were made to lose.

When asked by reporters if there were "irregularities” in the electoral process and if the local returning officers had delayed the transmission of results, Chattha said that irregularities were a "small term” for it.

"We made to lose the independent candidates who were winning with a lead of 70,000-80,000 votes by putting on fake stamps,” Chattha claimed. "There is no pressure on me’ I cannot become a part of breaking this country.”

He said the candidates who were "losing” the elections "were made to win” and added that he takes the responsibility for all the wrongdoing” in the poll-rigging. "I am telling you that the chief election commissioner and the chief justice are also completely involved in this,” he alleged.

"For committing such a heinous crime, I will hand myself over to the police," he said, also implicating the head of the election commission and the country's top judge. The election commission rejected Chattha's allegations, but said in a statement that it would "hold an enquiry."

PTIsupporters-Pollprotest Supporters of Imran Khan's party protest against the alleged skewing in election results in Hyderabad. AFP

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) strongly rejects the allegations levelled by Chattha on the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and ECP and said that no official ever issued any instructions regarding changing the election results to the commissioner.

"Neither is the commissioner of any division ever appointed as a district returning officer, returning officer or presiding, nor do they ever play a direct role in the conduct of elections. However, the ECP will conduct an inquiry into the matter as soon as possible,” the ECP said in a statement.

Leading advocacy group the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said after Chattha's announcement that the "involvement of the state bureaucracy in rigging in Pakistan is beginning to be exposed."

Candidates from the PML-N and PPP claimed most of the seats in Rawalpindi, sweeping aside candidates loyal to jailed former prime minister Imran Khan — the target of a sweeping crackdown.

Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party announced it would stage nationwide protests against the alleged rigging on Saturday.

PTI-AkranRaja-Lahore Policemen detain Salman Akram Raja (C), a candidate of PTI at a protest against the alleged rigging in election results. AFP

PTI defied a months-long crackdown that shattered its campaigning and forced candidates to run as independents, gaining more votes than any other party. But it has been unwilling to enter a coalition with its opponents, paving the way for PML-N to form the next government.

Reacting to the claims, caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi ordered an "impartial probe” into allegations of manipulation of poll results made by Chattha, and directed that a "high-level committee” be constituted to conduct an inquiry into the matter. "An independent inquiry of the allegations will be held,” Naqvi asserted, adding that the facts will be brought forward.

In the meantime, Rawalpindi Senior Superintendent of Police (operations) Kamran Asghar said that Chattha has not been arrested yet after media reports said he had been taken into custody. "How can we arrest someone till a case has been filed against them?”

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