Senate body to probe election rigging allegations via parliamentary commission

ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel on Wednesday expressed concerns over alleged rigging and irregularities in the July 25 elections and said that after the formation of the new government, it will form a parliamentary commission to probe the matter.

The Senate Standing Committee on Interior met at the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services with Senator Rehman Malik in the chair.

The committee chairman said that after the elections, ballot papers had been found in garbage dumps, dust bins and along roads, which indicates that the mandate of the people was stolen.

“This warrants a thorough inquiry,” he said.

The committee also took notice of the failure of the Results Transmission System (RTS) and the Result Management System.

An Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) official said the RTS was launched by the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra).

Ballot papers were found in garbage, along roads; people’s mandate was stolen, Senator Malik says

Committee members expressed grave concerns when they were told ECP had handed the system over to Nadra.

The committee chairman also asked who was monitoring the security of the system and what technical backup support ECP had.

He asked the election commission to furnish details in the next meeting of the steps taken to avoid the chances of RTS being hacked.

When Mr Malik recommended that a judicial commission be formed, PML-N senators Chaudhry Tanveer Khan and Javed Abbasi insisted that a parliamentary panel should probe the rigging allegations instead.

Maintaining that the elections were massively rigged, Senator Chaudhry Tenveer said 250 people had polled in one polling station in Rawalpindi and that the returning officer had issued the results of over 300 votes.

Senator Mohammad Azam Khan Musakhel of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party seconded the PML-N senators’ allegations and said: “It was selection, not election”.

He added that his party chief, Mehmood Khan Achakzai was defeated in the elections through a targeted approach and via rigging.

Though he was himself insisting on a judicial commission, the committee chairman said that in the next meeting, to be held on Aug 20 and after the formation of the PTI government, the committee will recommend the formation of a parliamentary commission.

PTI Senator Azam Khan Swati said it is good for democracy that proper investigations are held into allegations. However, he said, a parliamentary panel will face expertise issues as parliamentarians are not trained in probing technical matters.

Earlier during the meeting, the committee chairman asked for an explanation for why the Nadra chairman was not present during the meeting. He said that because Nadra had failed in giving the exact cost for verifying thumb prints for votes, the earlier rate of Rs10 per vote will be applied now as well.

He asked the Nadra director general about media reports in which the authority has said the RTS was working perfectly on election day. The DG said no such statement had been issued by Nadra.

Caretaker Interior Minister Azam Khan said his ministry has succeeded in conducting peaceful elections across the country as providing security was the responsibility of the interior ministry.

Death of three girls in Cholistan

The committee also discussed the deaths of three girls in the Cholistan Desert’s Fort Abbas, Bahawalnagar.

The initial report submitted to the committee by the Punjab police in regards to the deaths of nine-year-old Surraya Bibi, eight-year-old Tahira Bibi and six-year-old Allah Mafi does not mention physical assault or the exact cause of death. The committee chairman says he suspects the girls were killed.

He said the inspector general of Punjab police, DPO Bahawalnagar and the investigation officer had not properly investigated the incident. He added that the Punjab police are not cooperating with the committee on the case and are hesitating in sharing facts.

The committee chairman said the Punjab police are shielding the criminals and that the committee is determined to uncover the facts and punish those responsible.

Like in the Zainab murder case, he said, the committee will be pursuing the case of these three sisters to its logical conclusion.

The doctor who conducted the autopsies of the girls, Dr Azka, told the committee the children were sexually assaulted before they died.

Senator Swati vowed to pursue the case to its logical conclusion and that he is ashamed of the Punjab police for shielding the criminals of such a heinous crime.

The committee directed that a case be registered immediately against the police officials who did not do their duty in investigating the matter and concealing facts. The committee also ordered the formation of a high powered joint investigation team to be headed by a police officer of additional inspector general rank duly supervised by committee member Rana Maqbool Ahmed to investigate the girls’ deaths.

Committee members condemned the burning down of 12 girls’ schools in Diamer and Chilas in Gilgit-Baltistan and Senator Malik said terrorist groups are responsible for such heinous crimes.