Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party on February 8 claimed that polling in several areas of Pakistan’s Punjab province of Pakistan began on February 8 without the presence of its agents, some of whom were picked by the police to make rigging easier in the elections.
Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidates are contesting the polls independently after the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan to deprive his party of its iconic election symbol cricket ‘bat’. The PTI has alleged that the police removed its polling camps.
“At several polling stations in the constituencies, including those of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, his brother Shehbaz Sharif and daughter Maryam Nawaz the polling even began without the presence of the polling agents of the PTI in Lahore,” party leader from Lahore Wasim Ahmad said.
“Besides, only the PML-N polling agents were present when the presiding officers allowed the polling process in Nawaz Sharif’s NA-130 Lahore constituency,” he said. He said the police had started picking up its polling agents before they could reach the polling stations.
“Through this, the authorities want to ensure that our candidates’ polling agents could not get the result of the booth, making it easier for them to rig the election,” he said. The PTI alleges that tactics have been used to prevent their candidates from contesting the election.
Khan is jailed on corruption charges and is barred from standing. He is serving at least 14 years in prison, having been sentenced in three separate cases in the space of five days last week. He still faces over 140 charges in different cases.
As the government has shut down mobile and internet services in the country the voters are facing problems in casting their votes. However, high turnout is expected in most constituencies in the Punjab province.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Council of Pakistan has expressed strong concern over the closure of mobile and internet services in Pakistan on the day when it is going to polls.
“The government of Pakistan is shutting down mobile service and internet services in various cities of Pakistan. This is sad and cause for concern,” says the Human Rights Council of Pakistan. It says this decision of the government will affect the transparency of the election.
“Provision of mobile service on voting day is a basic requirement in Pakistan. We request the Election Commission and the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take immediate notice of this issue. Restore mobile service in Pakistan,” it says.
Pakistan Peoples Party chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has demanded the government restore mobile service in the country and said that he has asked his party to refer the matter to the Election Commission of Pakistan and the courts.
“Mobile phone services must be restored immediately across the country, (I) have asked my party to approach both ECP and the courts for this purpose,” he said in a message on X.
Independent candidate Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, contesting from Islamabad, criticised the government for blocking the mobile service in the country on the day of elections. “I cannot contact my polling agents at the polling stations,” he said and demanded immediate restoration of mobile networks.