The Punjab Assembly on Sunday approved a resolution calling for the resignation of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja, a key demand of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) ahead of a pending verdict on its prohibited funding case.
The motion against the CEC was tabled by PTI lawmaker Syed Abbas Shah before being passed by lawmakers representing the party and its coalition partner, Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid). The assembly did not take up any other issues, with the session being adjourned until Aug. 15 after the motion was passed.
The PTI has been slamming the ECP and CEC Raja for several months, with the rhetoric gaining speed ahead of the Punjab by-elections, which the party won a majority in despite accusing the electoral body of rigging the polls against it. Last week, after PMLQ’s Pervaiz Elahi was elected chief minister of Punjab as a joint candidate of the PMLQ and PTI, ousted prime minister Imran Khan presided over a meeting of the coalition partners and decided to file a disqualification reference against CEC Raja in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) for allegedly meeting members of the ruling coalition at the center.
In the same meeting, the PTI decided that provincial assemblies under its control—Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa—would pass no-confidence resolutions against the ECP.
ECP slams propaganda
In a statement issued on Sunday, the ECP slammed the “misleading propaganda” being spread against it, primarily by the PTI, stressing it has not “allowed any government to interfere in the electoral process.”
Regarding the PTI’s accusations of the ECP facilitating “secret balloting” in the Senate election, the statement stressed that Article 226 of the Constitution had clearly defined the elections that should be conducted in secrecy and the ECP had not violated any part of the Constitution.
An ECP spokesperson said PTI’s rivals were also part of the propaganda through allegations that it had refused, at the request of the PTI, to issue a notification about PPP Senator Yousaf Raza Gilani being the winner of an Islamabad general seat. “Why wouldn’t Gilani be notified when the results were issued after the voting in the National Assembly? What would be the legal justification for withholding the notification of any winning candidate?” read the statement.
On the Daska by-elections, which the PTI had lost while in power, the ECP said there had been “unprecedented” during the polls, adding that high-level inquiries had proved presiding officers were kidnapped and the decision for fresh re-polls was justified.
“The government was not allowed to interfere in the by-elections of 20 constituencies of Punjab as the ECP had sent out a clear message that if anything of that sort happened, strict action would be taken,” read the statement, adding that the legitimacy of the polls could be determined by all political parties accepting the election results.
On PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s claims of electronic voting machines (EVMs) helping avert rigging, the ECP said only two countries in the world—India and Brazil—were using the devices at the moment. “Both countries took 22 to 25 years to adopt this system, respectively. Elections are held at different times in Indian states,” said the ECP spokesperson. “ECP officials also met with the Brazilian ambassador to discuss the issue, and he said that it would be a ‘miracle for the EVMs system to be used in Pakistan by October 2023 elections’.”
The statement emphasized that the ECP was still working on an effective mechanism to introduce EVMs, adding that work was also underway on allowing overseas Pakistanis to cast votes from places of residence. The spokesperson said that the PTI’s proposed overseas voting system had been audited by an international firm, which had found that if it were employed, the elections would “suspicious and controversial.” They questioned: “Should the ECP adopt the system which experts and government representatives have such opinions about?”