Pakistan’s opposition parties held a protest demonstration outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in Islamabad on Wednesday against alleged vote-rigging in the July 25 general elections.
The decision to hold the protest was made by the newly formed 11-party grand opposition alliance, named ‘Pakistan Alliance for Free and Fair Elections’, at a multi-party conference held in Islamabad on Friday.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) party had, on Monday, announced that it had secured the necessary seats to form a coalition government and would nominate its leader, former cricket star Imran Khan, for prime minister. However, the unified coalition has accused Khan of cooperating with the country’s powerful military in rigging the election in PTI’s favour.
On Wednesday, workers numbering in hundreds gathered in the capital. Participants chanted slogans about their respective political parties as well as the alleged rigging. Security officials were deployed in the area to maintain law and order.
The opposition leaders say they will hold a protest inside and outside parliament during the first sitting of the National Assembly, which is due to meet sometime between August 12-14.
Sources within the opposition coalition told Dawn Newspaper that the parties have asked elected members to descend onto Islamabad and that soon there would be calls to echo the protests across the country. Further demonstrations at provincial ECP offices across the country were being planned for Thursday.
Pakistan’s two former ruling parties, the PML – N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) and the Pakistan People’s Party said they would form an alliance, that hitherto would have been unthinkable, to oppose Khan’s election to the post of prime minister. The PML-N and the PPP said they were forced to join hand by the unfairness of the elections. Both parties have traded power since Pakistan gained independence from Britain 71 years ago.
PTI, Military Alliance
Khan and the military were accused in the run-up to elections of having joined hands to ensure a PTI victory.
Khan has long been seen as an ally of Pakistan’s powerful military and intelligence services. He has vocally opposed US involvement in the country and consistently sides with the country’s conservative faction. The former cricket great has defended the country’s blasphemy laws while calling for the military to continue taking up its share of the country’s dwindling budget and also calling for a robust build up of the armed forces to oppose extremism.
These factors have resulted in cries of foul play and collusion with the military from international observers and opposition leaders in the run-up to and during the elections.
Critical voices point to the arrest of several members of the powerful PML-N party on corruption charges and the sentencing of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to three years in jail less than three weeks before the general elections as clear examples of meddling. Regardless of the veracity of those accusations, political impasse is surely on the horizon for Pakistan.