PESHAWAR: Ali Amin Gandapur, who was elected as the chief minister of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, on Friday demanded the country’s top election official resign over alleged rigging of Feb. 8 national election in the South Asian country.
The provincial assembly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Friday elected Gandapur, backed by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, as new chief minister of the province.
Gandapur secured 90 votes in Friday’s election, while his opponent, Dr. Ibadullah Khan, from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party secured 16 votes. The Awami National Party (ANP) and the Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) boycotted the election.
Ahead of Feb. 8 national election, Khan’s PTI party was barred from contesting the polls for breaching electoral laws. Resultantly, the PTI fielded its members as independent candidates, who later joined the minority Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) party to claim reserved seats.
But independent candidates, most loyal to Khan, swept the polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by winning 91 out of 113 provincial seats. They were followed by the JUI that secured seven seats, while the rest went to other parties.
“The rigging that has happened, it was the responsibility of the election commission to hold free and fair election constitutionally. They have failed in fulfilling their responsibility. I hereby demand the chief election commissioner tender resignation,” Gandapur said in his maiden speech after being elected as the chief minister.
He urged the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the chief justice to form an independent judicial commission and provide justice to people for their “stolen” mandate.
Khan’s PTI party had been severely hamstrung ahead of the polls, with rallies banned, its party symbol taken away, and dozens of its candidates rejected from eligibility to stand.
But despite facing what it says a state-backed crackdown, the independents, most loyal to Khan, stunned observers by winning the highest 101 seats in parliament and sweeping the polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“History, not only in Pakistan but in the world, has not witnessed the cruelty which has been faced by our party, our leader and our workers,” Gandapur said.
“Our party symbol was stolen, forget about the level playing field, we were not given a playing field [in the election]. My leader Imran Khan has been put in jail in fake FIRs [first information reports], the reason for his arrest is he spoke for Pakistan and its people, of the sovereignty of Pakistan, of Kashmir and Palestine.”
Khan has been in jail on a slew of charges, which the ex-premier maintains are “politically motivated.” The ex-premier accuses Pakistan’s powerful military of sidelining him and his party from politics. The military denies Khan’s accusations and says it does not interfere in political affairs.
In his speech, Gandapur demanded immediate release of Khan and called for an “open, free and fair trial” of the ex-premier. He demanded all cases registered against his party’s members and supporters be quashed within a week.
“We don’t want revenge as this country and these institutions are ours, but we want reforms,” he said. “We want a system where no one in the country should do unjust and take the law into their hands and take unlawful action against anyone.”
The newly elected chief minister announced he did not seek revenge against his rivals and promised to take all stake-holders along in governing the province.
“I am everyone’s chief minister, I won’t take any political revenge,” Gandapur said. “No person or organization will be allowed to act against the law.”
Dr. Ibadullah congratulated the newly elected chief minister, speaker and deputy speaker of the KP Assembly.
“We have not been sent to abuse each other, the public has sent us and are expecting from us,” he said. “The whole opposition will stand with you [government] in good acts.”
Later, Speaker Babar Saleem Swati adjourned the assembly session for an indefinite period.
Gandapur will take oath of his office at 3pm on Saturday, which would be administered by KP Governor Hajji Ghulam Ali.
On Thursday, the provincial assembly elected Swati as the speaker and Suraiya Bibi as the deputy speaker of the house.