Senators decry alleged rigging in Feb 8 polls

Senators decry alleged rigging in Feb 8 polls

A legal proceeding should be carried out against the CEC under Article 6 of the constitution, Senator Mushtaq demands

Khayam Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: Opposition senators on Tuesday decried alleged rigging in the February 8 elections and berated Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja for his “failure” to ensure transparency in the polls.

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Senator Mushtaq Ahmed demanded CEC Raja to step down from his position over the failure to hold transparent polls on February 8.

The JI senator, while addressing a Senate session in Islamabad today, said that the elections were fake and they would procreate a fake government.

Levelling serious allegations against the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the senator said the electoral body committed treason for which it should seek an apology from the nation.

“A legal proceeding should be carried out against the CEC under Article 6 of the constitution, for the ECP was given Rs50 billion from the national exchequer but it failed to hold transparent polls,” he alleged.

The money wasted in the name of elections should be returned and a case should be lodged against CEC Raja, the JI senator said, demanding the formation of an autonomous judicial commission at the Supreme Court’s level. 

The judicial commission should investigate the matter of Form 45, he maintained.

The senator also rebuked the authorities over the suspension of social media platform, X, saying that it inflicted economic and educational damage as well as it was tantamount to robbing people’s rights. He demanded the restoration of all the social media platforms avoiding placing restrictions on them.

X, formerly known as Twitter, remains intermittently down in Pakistan after it was restored on Monday after an over 36-hour blockade since Saturday (February 17).

Ahmed said those embroiled in rigging were playing with the national integrity. Suspension of internet services established that the polls were not transparent, he said adding, that the authorities were scared after allowing rigging, therefore social media platforms were shut down.

“To some extent, the Rawalpindi commissioner relayed details about the irregularities in elections. When JI Karachi chief Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman announced to hold a protest, you made him win from a constituency where he was the runner-up,” he said. 

Taking the floor, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Irfan Siddiqui, while addressing the PTI members, questioned why the former ruling party is unwilling to extend an olive branch to other political parties when they are reaching out to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Emir Fazlur Rehman over the issue of alleged rigging in the polls.

“This is the same election commissioner who conducted polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP)”, Siddiqui said while calling out the PTI for its contradictory stance on election results in the said province and other places.

On the issue of the formation of the future government, the PML-N stalwart underscored that neither his party nor the PTI or the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have the required seats and that the future government will be formed via a coalition.

Commenting on the role of returning officers (ROs) in polls, PTI Senator Waleed Iqbal said that the lawmakers “should go home” in the wake of the non-implementation of the laws promulgated by the parliament.

“The chief election commissioner (CEC) didn’t even [bothered to] brief the media [on the February 8 polls,” the senator lamented while demanding the commission to respond to election rigging allegations.

On the issue of internet disruptions, the PTI leader questioned why the internet services were shut down during the night despite the polling process being culminated during the daytime.

During the debate, Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party’s (PkMAP) Senator Shafiq Tareen called for an investigation into the alleged billions of rupees taken by the returning officers (ROs) from candidates in bribes.

“[Authorities] should probe the [alleged] Rs50 to 60 billion taken in bribes,” the lawmaker stressed.

“People’s mandate was stolen [as] ROs took tens of millions in bribes from losing candidates [to change the results],” Tareen claimed while lamenting that the candidate who had withdrawn in favour of Mahmood Khan Achakzai was “made to win”.