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Allegations of rigging, arrest of Rawalpindi commissioner, uncertainty over govt formation: Confusion reigns supreme in Pakistan after elections

Pakistan spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) met Imran Khan in Adiala jail. The ISI reportedly made a deal with Imran Khan during the meeting.

Amid revelations by the Rawalpindi Commissioner of ‘Institutionalised rigging’ to turn losers into ‘winners’, confusion has prevailed over the formation of a new government in Pakistan even after 10 days of election results. While the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has raised questions about the integrity and credibility of the Feb 8 elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan is yet to officially notify the victory of most of the independent candidates. Inconclusive talks between PPP and PML-N over a power-sharing formula and unusual ISI officials meeting with jailed PTI leader Imran Khan have created an atmosphere of political uncertainty in Pakistan. 

Questions raised over integrity of election results and Election Commission’s conduct

On Saturday, Rawalpindi Commissioner Liaquat Ali Chattha blamed the Election Commission of Pakistan and Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa for involvement in the ‘massive rigging’. The acceptance of election rigging kicked off a political storm as it bolstered the claim of Imran Khan-led PTI and other political parties who had been carrying out nationwide anti-rigging campaigns. 

Following Chattha’s explosive revelations in a press conference, he ‘surrendered’ himself to the police. Subsequently, the Police arrested him and sealed his office “to prevent record tampering”. However, a police spokesman said the commissioner was not “arrested’ claiming that there were no cases against him, but added that he was in “custody” after the allegations. Later, Chattha was shifted to some unknown place.

Following the development, incarcerated PTI Founder Imran Khan described Chattha’s revelations as an “incriminating confession” adding that the party-backed candidates were robbed of at least 13 National Assembly seats in Rawalpindi Division alone.

Since then, PTI has been demanding the resignations of Chief Election Commissioner and Chief Justice of Pakistan. In their defense, CJP Faez Isa has rejected the allegations against him while the Election Commission has formed a committee to ‘probe’ the accusations.  

The major benefactor of this election, PML-N, raised questions over the mental health of Rawalpindi Commissioner after his revelations. PML-N Secretary Information, Marriyum Aurangzeb, urged authorities to put the Rawalpindi commissioner’s name on the exit control list (ECL). She said, “The commissioner has no constitutional responsibility or authority in the compilation or implementation of the execution of the election. There were hearings held in the election commission where they invited everyone to present any evidence of rigging, but Mr Chattha did not show up.”

On Saturday (17th February), The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) questioned the elections’ integrity and called for an independent audit into rigging allegations. In a report, the HRCP urged an independent audit of the Feb 8 general elections under the supervision of a parliamentary body. 

The HRCP’s election observers conducted spot-checks in 51 constituencies. According to its findings as well as the nationwide shutdown of internet and cellular services on polling day, it found that the arbitrary changes in polling information hindered voters’ access to polling stations. 

The report noted, “While the polling process itself was generally transparent and pea­ceful, the post-polling procedures raised significant concerns.” 

Even after 10 days, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is yet to notify the victory of most of the independent candidates who have won National Assembly (NA) seats in the general elections, Dawn reported. 

According to unofficial results, more than 101 independent candidates, predominantly backed by PTI, have won National Assembly seats. As of last night, the ECP had notified the result of only eight of them and declared the victory of 33 more through a late-night notification.

Furthermore, several Nationalist parties in Balochistan have announced province-wide strikes and have rejected the 8th February election results. According to Pakistani media, leaders from a coalition of Baloch, Pashtoon, and Hazara nationalist parties have rejected the Feb 8 election results. They accused the process of being marred by corruption and allegations of Rs70 billion being given in Balochistan for electoral victories. 

On Saturday, speaking at a joint public meeting, the heads of four parties — Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), National Party (NP) and Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) alleged that “supernatural entities” aided the victories of candidates who have been declared as “winners” adding that they didn’t secure their positions through legitimate votes.

On Sunday (18th February), they also called for a province-wide wheel-jam strike and declared their support for parties that would stop civil and military interference in politics.

Confusion over alliance government

The Pakistani voters gave a fractured mandate, and no party crossed the coveted halfway mark of 134 in the 266-member National Assembly. A day after the election results, PML-N, which emerged as the single largest party with 79 seats, announced an alliance with PPP and four other parties to form a government led by Shehbaz Sharif as the Prime Minister. 

However, the talks between PPP and PML-N to agree on a power-sharing formula to form a coalition government have remained inconclusive so far. On Saturday (17th February), the Contact and Coordination Committees (CCCs) of both parties met for the third time which failed to yield results. Both parties will meet again on Monday (19th February) claiming that talks are yielding “significant progress”. 

According to Pakistani media, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari-led PPP has assured PML-N of supporting its Prime Ministerial candidate and government from outside adding that it will not take Ministries in the Federal government. But in exchange for its “support”, it has sought key constitutional offices, including that of the president. Additionally, a PPP office-bearer, privy to the talk on government formation, told Dawn that the party has decided to seek the senior-most posts in both the Houses – National Assembly speaker and Senate chairman.

However, Pakistani media reports added that the hard “political bargaining” by the PPP has miffed PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif who is considering sitting in the opposition rather than being in a government that faces PTI protests and rallies daily and meet changing “conditions” of its so-called ally PPP. 

Meanwhile, earlier this week, people aware of the development said that the Pakistan spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) met Imran Khan in Adiala jail. The ISI reportedly made a deal with Imran Khan after which Khan-led PTI nominated Omar Ayub Khan as his PM candidate on Thursday (15th February).

It came a day after Former Pak PM Nawaz Sharif announced his brother Shehbaz Sharif as the prime ministerial candidate from their party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Meanwhile, the complexity in the PML-N and PPP coalition government gets aggravated regarding the talks over provincial governments as both of them have competing choices. As per sources, the issue of forming a provincial government in Balochistan is also being discussed between the two parties. The PPP is the largest party in Balochistan and it is followed by PML-N. Coincidentally, both parties are claiming to form their own government in the province.

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