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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), on Wednesday, submitted with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) the alleged “evidence” of pre-poll rigging in the forthcoming elections in the Cantonment Boards, and urged the election body to ensure holding of free, fair, and transparent elections in the boards.

A PML-N delegation, comprising party’s secretary-general Ahsan Iqbal, senior leaders including Khawaja Saad Rafique, Atta Tarar, Marriyum Aurangzeb, and others, held a meeting with Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, and submitted their written complaints.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Iqbal said that the PML-N has presented everything with “evidence” to the CEC, and demanded him to take effective action on the complaints to ensure holding of the free and fair elections in the cantonment boards.

He said that the CEC assured them that the ECP would fulfil its responsibility for holding free, fair, and transparent elections.

“We would also see that the ECP should not issue only meaningless notices, but we demand an effective action on the complaints submitted to it about the central government’s intervention in elections of the Cantonment Boards,” he added.

He said that the ECP should not act like a silent spectator over the violations of the code of conduct of the elections in the Cantonment Boards, so that to restore the confidence of the people in free and transparent elections.

He alleged the PTI government was using the respective local administrations for getting their desired election results.

“I would like to appeal to the bureaucracy, particularly the officers of the civil services, that you are not the employees of the PTI. Wherever any officer acted upon unlawful directions, he would have to face the legal action and would be held accountable,” he said.

He said that the party has also demanded of the ECP that to play its role in accordance with the letter earlier sent to it by the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly about the “unilateral” electoral reforms.

He said that the reservations over the electronic voting machines (EVMs) are not based on assumptions, adding that they had informed the ECP that it is a serious matter and the opposition parties be taken into confidence.

Responding to a question about promulgation of the Election Ordinance aimed at amending the Section 72 of the Election Act 2017, binding the elected members to take oath within 60 days of the commencement of first session of legislature, Iqbal said that it proves that the government was not making the legislation based on any principle to ensure fair elections, but the entire agenda of the electoral reforms is either person-specific or its objective is to open the door for rigging the next elections.

He said that the PML-N has already opposed the electoral reforms, which contains a section for shifting the voters’ lists from the ECP to the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA).

“It only means that only those would cast their votes in the next elections to be cleared by government itself and reject those who they consider as their opponents at the eleventh hour. They are plotting this plan through the NADRA, but we would not let it happen. The ECP has been made guardian over the voters’ list to prevent others from making entries of their will in it,” he said.

He alleged that the agenda of the electoral reforms is also aimed at paving the way for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s “blue eyed” whose nomination papers were earlier rejected by the ECP for holding dual nationalities.

“So, the agenda of the electoral reforms is all about providing “NRO” to Imran Khan’s blue-eyed boys or opening the doors for rigging in the elections,” he said.

Saad Rafique warned of a reaction, if an effort was made to steal the mandate.

He alleged that the CCPO of Lahore has been given the task by Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar to pick the PML-N activists 48 hours before the elections.

“Even the returning officers were called [by Buzdar] and they were asked to give them the desired results. This is unacceptable. We would compete with them and would not allow them to steal the mandate,” he maintained, alleging that the provincial election commission was not acting upon their complaints.

The PML-N leader, Atta Tarar, said that it is the responsibility of the ECP to provide a level-playing field to all the political parties and not to give an advantage to the ruling party.

He demanded that strict actions should be taken against those officers identified by the PML-N.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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