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Pakistan: Ex-official makes U-turn on his rigging allegations, blames Imran Khan's PTI

Last week, former Rawalpindi Commissioner Liaquat Ali Chattha claimed 13 candidates from Rawalpindi were forcefully declared winners before resigning. Now he says the claims in that press conference were made at the behest of a senior PTI leader to boost their narrative.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Islamabad Updated on: February 23, 2024 17:02 IST
Pakistan, Pakistan elections, rigging
Image Source : PTI Widespread protests have taken place in Pakistan over alleged rigging in elections.

Islamabad: Days after an explosive confession of his involvement in rigging the elections to make the losers win in the Rawalpindi division, former Rawalpindi commissioner Liaquat Ali Chattha on Thursday seemingly backtracked on his allegations, saying last week's presser was held at the behest of a senior Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader who happened to be a proclaimed offender.

Chattha alleged that candidates who were losing the elections “were made to win” in Rawalpindi and said the chief election commissioner and the chief justice were also involved in the poll rigging. Before resigning from his post, he claimed that 13 candidates from Rawalpindi were forcefully declared winners.

He "took the responsibility for all this wrongdoing", claiming that “stabbing the country in its back does not let” him sleep. "I should be punished for the injustice I have done and others who were involved in this injustice should also be punished," he said while demanding punishment for them.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has strongly rejected the allegations of Chattha regarding the chief election commissioner, saying that no commissioner of any division was appointed as a "DRO, RO or presiding officer, nor do they ever play a direct role in the conduct of elections". Punjab caretaker Information Minister Amir Mir also rejected the claims of manipulation of poll results made by Chattha.

The allegations raised by Chattha gave a major boost to jailed former PM Imran Khan's party, which was among the parties protesting against alleged widespread rigging in the February 8 elections. The PTI demanded a judicial probe into the manipulation of the results and the resignation of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Chief Justice of Pakistan

What did Chattha say now?

In a letter to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) accessed by Dawn, Chattha said last week’s press conference was held at the behest of a senior PTI leader. He has not been seen since his explosive major allegations of rigging in the election last week and his current whereabouts are unknown.

"The primary aim of this proposed press conference was to create sensations and drama, augmenting false narratives being built by PTI. I take full responsibility for my actions and surrender myself before the authorities for any kind of legal action," he said in his three-page letter. His remarks add to the confusion and uncertainty in Pakistan's already muddled political landscape.

Chattha also denied that the Chief Justice of Pakistan had any role in the election process, saying that he was specifically asked by the PTI leader, whom he did not name, in question to name the CJP to create momentum as the Imran-led party had already been sowing doubts and distrust against the chief justice.

"It was planned in advance that PTI would call for countrywide protests against the election process. The press conference was to be conducted on the specific day for which PTI had called for protests. It was as per this planning that the press conference was conducted by me on Feb 17 when PTI had called for countrywide protests," he added.

"In the end, I feel extremely ashamed and embarrassed for making totally false, concocted, anti-state and malicious statement in the press conference. This activity caused embarrassment for me as well as for the entire bureaucratic fraternity. I apologise to the entire bureaucratic circles of the country whose reputation has been seriously dented by my actions." Chattha concluded.

'Developed personal relations with PTI leader'

The ex-Rawalpindi commissioner further said he developed "personal relations" with a senior and prominent PTI leader, who had been absconding from courts and hiding after the May 9 riots and was declared a proclaimed offender. The PTI member in question then secretly travelled to Lahore after the elections and held a meeting with him, where he offered him a role in supporting PTI's narrative of rigging in the general polls, he further said.

“He informed me that this entire planning had been formulated after consultation and approval of the senior leadership of PTI. This proposal was made by the said individual considering the fact that I was about to retire from service,” Chattha added.

Independent candidates, most of whom were backed by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, won 93 out of the 265 National Assembly seats that went to polls on February 8. However, PTI's two main rivals appear on course to form a coalition government after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) struck a power-sharing deal earlier this week.

ALSO READ | Pakistani poll official accepts 'responsibility for wrongdoing’ in Feb 8 general elections, resigns

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