Pakistan election: Rawalpindi official admits to rigging vote

City commissioner Liaqat Ali Chattha alleges electoral and judicial officials were also involved in manipulating results of general election

Rawalpindi Commissioner Liaqat Ali Chattha claims losing candidates in Pakistan election were 'made to win'. AFP
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Pakistan's electoral authority has ordered an inquiry after a senior bureaucrat said he helped to manipulate the results of 13 seats in the general election held on February 8.

Liaqat Ali Chattha, commissioner of the garrison city of Rawalpindi, where the country's military has its headquarters, told reporters on Saturday that candidates who were losing the elections “were made to win” and that efforts to justify the manipulated results were continuing in “an organised manner at some offices”, the Dawn newspaper reported.

There have been widespread allegations of rigging after authorities switched off the country's mobile phone network on election day and the count took more than 24 hours.

The army-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), short of a majority, has announced a partnership with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and a handful of smaller parties to form the next government.

Before stepping down from his post, Mr Chattha said he supervised rigging of votes in Rawalpindi.

We converted the losers into winners, reversing margins of 70,000 votes in 13 national assembly seats
Liaqat Ali Chattha, commissioner of Rawalpindi

"We converted the losers into winners, reversing margins of 70,000 votes in 13 national assembly seats," he told reporters.

"For committing such a heinous crime, I will hand myself over to the police," he said, also implicating the head of the election commission and the country's senior judge.

The election commission rejected Mr Chattha's allegations, but said it would "hold an enquiry".

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a leading advocacy group, said after Mr Chattha's announcement that the "involvement of the state bureaucracy in rigging in Pakistan is beginning to be exposed".

Candidates from the PML-N and PPP claimed most of the seats in Rawalpindi, sweeping aside candidates loyal to jailed former prime minister Imran Khan, who was ineligible to contest the election after a spate of recent convictions.

Mr Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was effectively barred from fielding candidates in the election, but independents backed by the former prime minister together won more seats than any of the parties.

A small number of PTI supporters took to the streets in urban centres on Saturday after the party called for nationwide protests against the alleged rigging, with the largest gathering of about 4,000 people in its stronghold northern city of Peshawar.

In the central city of Lahore, police detained senior party member Salman Akram Raja and about a dozen supporters after surrounding the party headquarters but said they were all released by late afternoon.

Senior PTI official Ali Muhammad Khan said after the protests that Mr Chattha's statement proved his party was cheated.

"We must be returned our mandate," he told reporters in Islamabad.

By Saturday night, social media platform X, formerly Twitter, was disrupted across Pakistan, according to watchdog NetBlocks.

With reporting from agencies.

Updated: February 18, 2024, 7:47 PM