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Imran Khan’s party calls for nationwide protests in Pakistan over ‘stolen’ election

A supporter of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) political party wears a facemask with the picture of party leader Imran Khan, during a protest against alleged rigging in the general election (EPA)
A supporter of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) political party wears a facemask with the picture of party leader Imran Khan, during a protest against alleged rigging in the general election (EPA)

Jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s political outfit has called its supports to hit the streets across Pakistan on Saturday to protest against their “stolen mandate” amid allegations of widespread rigging in the recent general elections.

A close aide of Khan told The Independent the nationwide protests will be held on the orders of Khan and the party is “planning weekly protests” in the coming days to demand swift hearing of their court cases against alleged election rigging.

Omar Ayub, who was picked as prime ministerial candidate, called for nationwide protests at a press conference following a meeting with Khan – the chair of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) – at Rawalpindi’s high-security Adiala jail.

"Our seats were stolen with just a stroke of pen. The people gave the mandate to the former PTI chairman. Nation’s mandate and our seats have been attacked," Mr Ayub said.

Zulfikar Bukhari, a close associate and aide to Khan, told The Independent: “We are obviously not going to stay silent over our stolen mandate. We are going to strongly but peacefully protest.

“We are knocking on every court and the election commission of Pakistan and the tribunals and the higher courts after that because there’s been a mandate stolen, a heavy mandate stolen in the country.”

“We will be forming the strongest the strongest opposition the country has ever seen as well.”

Supporters of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) political party gather to protest against alleged rigging in the general elections, in Karachi, Pakistan (EPA)
Supporters of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) political party gather to protest against alleged rigging in the general elections, in Karachi, Pakistan (EPA)

Protests called by Khan, who remain a hugely popular in the country, draw hundreds of thousands of supporters and have turned violent in the past following police action, leading to a number of casualties.

In the 8 February elections, independent candidates, mostly backed by Khan’s PTI party, won a majority of 93 of the 265 National Assembly seats. But they fell short of gaining overall majority of 169 needed to form a government.

PTI’s rivals, Pakistan Muslim League-N and Pakistan People’s Party won 79 and 54 seats respectively and announced that they would form a coalition government in a post-poll alliance.

Khan’s party accused the two legacy parties, which were seen as having the support of the powerful military establishment, of stealing PTI’s mandate and of taking part in widespread election rigging in their favour.

Supporters of Imran Khan's PTI party protest against alleged rigging in general elections in Karachi (EPA)
Supporters of Imran Khan's PTI party protest against alleged rigging in general elections in Karachi (EPA)

Mr Bukhari said their coalition only shows that “democracy has died in Pakistan”. PTI said it wants to create its own majority government and does not wish to form any government with any major party after alleging that its victories in many seats were overturned.

A high-level investigation has been initiated by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) into the allegations of widespread manipulation of polling results.

It directed the forming of a committee that will record statements from district polling officials and submit a report within three days.

The investigation was initiated following the resignation of Rawalpindi city’s commissioner, Liaquat Ali Chattha, who admitted to manipulating results and claimed he was pressured by the country’s senior officials.

Mr Chattha claimed the candidates who were “losing” the elections “were made to win” in the city and the pressure on him was so intense that he contemplated self-harm, but later decided to expose the matter in front of the media because “stabbing the country in its back does not let” him sleep.

He claimed that 13 candidates from Rawalpindi were forcefully declared winners.

Last month, Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman from the Jamaat-e-Islami party relinquished his Karachi seat. He claimed that local election officials had interfered in the process to hinder the chances of his PTI opponent winning.

Meanwhile, Khan’s party has written a letter to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to factor in the country’s political stability in any further bailout talks, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.

Analysts have said that the IMF not agreeing to a bailout package could be catastrophic for Pakistan’s cash-strapped economy struggling to recover from an economic crisis.