Pakistan politician gives up seat he says was rigged for his win

Pakistan politician gives up seat he says was rigged for his win
Pakistan politician gives up seat he says was rigged for his win

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - KARACHI — A Pakistan politician who won a seat in last week's controversial national elections has given it up because he says the vote was rigged in his favor.

Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman of the Jamaat-e-Islami party had been named the victor of the provincial assembly seat PS-129 in the city of Karachi.

But this week he claimed the candidate backed by Imran Khan's PTI party had secured far more votes and that their tally had been reduced.

As such he would relinquish the seat.

"If anyone wants to make us win in an illegitimate manner, we will not be accepting that," Rehman said at a press conference held by his party on Monday.

He added: "Public opinion should be respected, let the winner win, let the loser lose, no one should get anything extra."

He said that while he had received more than 26,000 votes, the independent candidate Saif Bari, backed by the PTI, had received 31,000 votes — but these were presented as 11,000 votes.

Pakistani electoral authorities have denied the allegations. It is unclear who will take up the PS-129 seat now.

But the incident is just the latest highlighting the crisis around Pakistan's elections held last Thursday, which have been marred by allegations of widespread vote fraud and interference, which were said to have damaged candidates affiliated with Khan.

The former prime minister has been in jail since last August and his party was disqualified from the ballot, meaning that PTI candidates had to run as independents.

But despite these hurdles, voters overwhelmingly turned out across the country to cast votes in favor of his cause.

Independent candidates — a majority affiliated with the PTI — won 93 of the 265 National Assembly seats that were contested, the largest of any single party.

However the PTI argues such candidates should have won even more votes and more seats. They have alleged numerous instances of vote rigging, and welcomed the Islamist party's relinquishing of the Karachi seat this week.

Despite the PTI's success in the popular vote, Khan's rival parties — Nawaz Sharif's PML-N and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's PPP — earlier this week said they had reached a deal to form a government.

In last week's vote, the PML-N won 75 seats while the PPP came third with 54 seats. They have also reached an agreement to form a coalition with several smaller parties such as the MQM.

In addition, parties will be allocated more seats from the 70 reserved for women and non-Muslims. These additional seats are not available to independent candidates.

This means they will easily reach the required 169 seats needed to form a government.

PML-N and PPP were previously in a coalition that ousted Khan from power in 2022. Sharif's brother Shehbaz took over at that time as prime minister; he is being presented again as the likely next leader of Pakistan.

Khan was ousted as prime minister in a parliamentary vote of no confidence, after which several criminal charges were laid against him. He was jailed for 14 years on various charges a week before the election, with several prison sentences to run concurrently. The 71-year-old has said the legal cases against him were fabricated and part of a wider political witch-hunt.

Pakistan's caretaker government has denied these allegations. — BBC

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