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ISLAMABAD: Allegations of rigging and violence in the by-elections held on Sunday are not limited to the opposition but to the representatives from independent monitoring agencies and individuals which has severely impacted on their credibility.

Finger pointing at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) over its alleged failure to hold free, fair and transparent by-polls is almost routine in this country, said one electoral expert adding facetiously that this time around there is a widespread perception that rigging has achieved the status of transparency.

The way forward must be to withhold results from the disputed constituencies, and a free and fair investigation held into the allegations of rigging and other irregularities.

By-elections were held on five National Assembly seats, including two each from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one from Sindh as well as 12 provincial seats in Punjab and two each in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

The PML-N, according to unofficial results, claimed at least two out of the five National Assembly seats, and won 10 out of the 16 seats in the provincial assemblies.

Unlike the general elections, key PML-N leaders including the party supremo Nawaz Sharif and its Punjab chapter President Rana Sanaullah, both not barred from campaigning as they do not hold any public office, were not seen electioneering.

Talking to Business Recorder, Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) President, Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said that the ECP has all the power to investigate the alleged rigging in the by-elections.

In case of alleged rigging particularly in the disputed constituencies, the concerned Returning Officers should withhold results of the elections, he added.

He pointed out that the ECP faced serious allegations in the February 8 general elections, but failed to address them adding that this will further seriously damage the credibility of the ECP.

A retired ECP Secretary, speaking on condition of anonymity, urged the ECP to refrain from announcing the results in all disputed constituencies.

The Sunday by-elections were marked with widespread allegations of rigging and violence in some constituencies.

A man was killed near a polling station in Narowal constituency (PP-54) of Punjab Assembly during an armed conflict between the supporters of PML-N and rival PTI.

Some presiding officers allegedly forced polling agents to sign blank Form-45 in Punjab Assembly’s PP-149 constituency (Lahore-III).

In another incident, armed men entered a polling station in Balochistan Assembly’s PB-50 constituency in Qilla Abdullah.

Some candidates and the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party complained to the ECP over alleged abduction of the polling staff in Balochistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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