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Pakistani Opposition Rallies Over 'Rigged' Elections


Pakistan opposition leader Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman (C) addresses protesters outside the election commission office against the alleged election rigging in Islamabad on August 8.

Supporters of Pakistan's opposition political parties have rallied to protest what they claim were fraud and voting irregularities in last month's national elections, directly blaming the country's powerful military.

Hundreds of supporters gathered on August 8 in the capital, Islamabad, after the parties of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and ex-President Asif Ali Zardari and other organizations called for a march on Pakistan's Election Commission and demanded an investigation into the results.

The protesters alleged the July 25 elections that gave victory to Imran Khan's Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) party were rigged by the military, which critics say holds substantial sway over the country's domestic and international policies and has regularly censored potentially negative press coverage.

The PTI did not win enough parliamentary seats to form a government, but the party claims it has enough support to form a coalition, and Khan -- a former cricket star -- is expected to become the next prime minister.

The PTI victory knocked Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz from power. Sharif advocated civilian as opposed to military supremacy and is now jailed after conviction on corruption charges that he denies.

Ali Zardari's left-of-center Pakistan Peoples Party finished the vote in third place.

The caretaker government has said it is looking to transfer power on August 14, which is celebrated as Pakistan's Independence Day.

The military, which has ruled Pakistan for about half the time since its formation in 1947, denied it intervened to help Kahn take power. Khan has vowed to investigate the allegations once he takes office.

A monitoring team from the European Union has said the election results "overall" were "credible," although they did criticize the campaign, saying it was marred by intimidation of some candidates, an effort to undermine the former ruling party, and media self-censorship.

Violence that led to at least 31 deaths was also reported on election day.

On July 30, thousands of supporters of the Awami National Party took to the streets to protest the election results.

In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province city of Charsadda, protesters threw stones at a military convoy and chanted, "The military supports terrorism."

With reporting by dpa and AP

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