Rivals trade accusations after viral video shows money exchanging hands for promises of votes, with each group describing it as ‘fake’
With the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) out of the running for Lahore’s NA-133 by-election, rival parties Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and Pakistan Peoples Party have returned to form by accusing each other of trying to “buy votes” in the constituency following the release of a viral video that allegedly shows voters being bribed by PMLN workers.
The video, which appeared on social media over the weekend, appears to show voters queuing up with their ID cards and taking oath to vote for the PMLN’s candidate in exchange for cash. Taking notice of the video on Sunday, returning officer Syed Basit Ali wrote separate letters to the Punjab police chief, the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), Lahore’s deputy commissioner, and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), directing them to ascertain the identities of the individuals in the clips and take action against them by Nov. 30 (Tuesday).
“Behind the scene discussions give an impression that voters’ credentials are being noted for buying their votes by paying them some amounts in cash,” read one of the letters, noting that some pictures and banners of contesting candidates could be seen in the background. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has ordered a forensic analysis of the video to determine its authenticity and origin, including the location of the room visible in it.
PMLN’s Muhammad Arif has registered a complaint with the ECP alleging that the video has been produced by the PPP to malign his party and accusing it of trying to “buy votes” in the constituency. He alleged that the video was doctored and actually showed the PPP distributing Rs. 2,000 per person to “purchase” votes from voters, adding that all the individuals shown were wearing masks to hide their faces.
Ali Pervaiz Malik, the son of PMLN candidate Shaista Pervaiz Malik, issued a video statement condemning the alleged purchase of votes and urged the PPP leadership to take notice and halt the practice. “This fake video, in which all the characters are masked, this attempt to launch a campaign [against PMLN], has been rejected by the people of Lahore,” he said, adding that his father—Pervaiz Malik who passed away last month—had secured 90,000 votes in the 2018 general elections while the PPP hadn’t even managed to secure 10,000.
PPP pushes back
In a statement, PPP Punjab Information Secretary Shahzad Cheema regretted that the videos were being “made to go viral by both parties.” He claimed that his party had not directed anyone to bribe voters in the constituency, adding that the PPP “strongly” condemned it if such activities had occurred at any level. He also suggested that the videos were a “ploy” to damage the election.
Meanwhile, PPP’s Syed Hasan Murtaza in a separate statement accused the PMLN of respecting the [currency] “note” rather than the “vote,” in a reference to the party’s “respect the vote” slogan. He claimed the PPP was competing for the constituency “on the basis of ideology rather than money,” adding that the party did not “believe in buying and selling votes.”
PTI targets PMLN
PTI Senator Ejaz Chaudhary, sharing the video on his Twitter account, claimed it had “exposed” the PMLN. “This is why they are against EVMs [electronic voting machines],” he wrote, though did not explain how bribing for votes ahead of elections could be halted with a different balloting process.
The NA-133 seat fell vacant last month after the death of Pervaiz Malik. It comprises 254 polling stations with approximately 440,485 registered voters.