Several political parties have rejected Pakistan's elections and threatened nationwide street protests unless the entire July 25 vote that saw the Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf party (PTI) score a major electoral victory is re-run.
Leaders of the former ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Muttahida Majlis-e Amal (MMA), an alliance of Islamist political parties, and several smaller political parties issued a strong statement after a multi-party conference on late July 27 to determine a strategy for resisting what they say were rigged elections.
"We do not consider this election to be the mandate of the public, but a theft of the people's mandate," said Maulana Fazalur Rehman from the Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam (JUI) party, part of the MMA coalition. "We will organize protest rallies,” he said.
PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif agreed with the protest part but said his party needed time to deliberate over whether their members wanted to refrain from taking oath as part of their protest over the election rigging.
Former lawmaker Rehman has won several elections in the past. According to the latest results by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), his MMA came in a distant fourth with 12 seats in the 272-member lower house of the Pakistani Parliament. The PTI is leading with 114 seats while the PML-N secured 62 seats. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is third with 43 seats. Smaller parties and independent candidates snatched up the remaining seats.
The PPP's young leader, Bilwal Bhutto Zardari, also rejected the election results but indicated that his party will join the parliament and form the provincial administration in its traditional electoral stronghold, the southern province of Sindh. "Pakistan Peoples Party rejects this entire election process," he told journalists late on July 27.
Earlier, the PML-N’s jailed leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif alleged that the election was “stolen” and warned that “tainted and dubious” results would cast a dark shadow over the country’s politics.
Hours after the polls closed on July 25, his younger brother and PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif claimed the vote had been engineered. "I will reject the election results,” he said.
Several political leaders have echoed his complaints and accusations that army soldiers stationed at polling stations kicked out poll monitors and representatives of political parties. Losing parties have accused the election commission of delaying results from across the country to favor cricketer-turned-politician’s Imran Khan’s PTI. Most had accused the country’s powerful military of favoring his party.
“We completely reject this election result because the army, election commission, and the caretaker government have partnered to shape it in favor of one individual [reaching the corridors of power],” Asfandiyar Wali Khan, leader of the secular Awami National Party, told journalists while alluding to Khan.
Pakistan’s election authorities, however, deny the accusations. Babar Yaqoob, an ECP official, said there was “no conspiracy." He blamed technical failures in an electronic reporting system for delays in announcing results. "Elections were 100 percent transparent and fair," Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Mohammad Raza said.
During his victory speech on July 26, Khan addressed the alleged rigging. “I say to you today, if you say there was rigging in any one constituency, we will stand with you and aid in its investigation,” he said. “This is the cleanest election in Pakistan's history."
The opposition gathering is likely to be weakened by the reported absence of the PPP. While its leadership has alleged irregularities, it has decided to stay away from the planned meeting in Islamabad. "The PPP leadership will devise its own political strategy [over alleged poll irregularities]," PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar told the private Dawn News TV.
Mahmood Khan Azchakzai, the leader of the Pakshtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, expects to come up with a joint strategy. He told Radio Mashaal that political leaders will deliberate on measures to respond to what he termed blatant rigging.
“We will discuss ways to uphold the democracy of the constitution of Pakistan,” he said.