KARACHI: A coalition of seven regional parties in southern Sindh province announced to forego two provincial assembly seats on Monday to protest the alleged election manipulation in the Feb. 8 polls after Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) left its seat in favor of an independent candidate backed by former prime minister Imran Khan.
The general elections last Thursday helped the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) secure record 84 seats in the Sindh Assembly, followed by Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) with 28 seats. The independents backed by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party won 14 seats, while the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and JI each secured two seats.
The PTI, JI and GDA claim the election results were altered at the offices of the Returning Officers (ROs) during the tabulation process, saying their candidates or polling agents were not allowed to observe the process.
Addressing a news conference in Karachi, Pir Sibghatullah Rashidi, the head of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) of seven parties said his coalition would return its two provincial assembly seats and protest to reclaim all those constituencies where it lost due to rigging.
The GDA emerged victorious in PS-31, Khairpur, where its candidate bagged 58,091 votes while the PPP’s Muhammad Bachal Shah took 51,769.
The coalition also performed well in PS-40, Sanghar, where Ghulam Dastgir Rajar secured 56,345 votes against PPP’s Naveed Dero.
“We will return these two seats,” Rashidi said. “We will not get these seats in charity, hold protests against the bogus elections and stage a sit-in at the Hyderabad bypass on Feb. 16.”
He said he had been asked three months ahead of the national elections to end the coalition and join hands with the PPP.
“If you don’t disband the GDA, then write zero against [the number of seats],” he continued.
Meanwhile, in Karachi, 17 PTI-backed independents, among 30 other contenders, have challenged the election results in the Sindh High Court.
Rights activist and lawyer Jibran Nasir said all candidates had the same plea which related to the “malicious tabulation by ROs.”
He added the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should try to promptly respond to such concerns.
The GDA, JI, and the PTI suffered a resounding defeat at the hands of PPP and MQM-P in Sindh, which walked away with the lion’s share of the seats in southern province. In Karachi, the MQM-P managed to win 17 National Assembly seats as per the results released by the ECP on Sunday.
Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan, who has been in jail since August last year and has since been convicted in a number of legal cases, accuses the country’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 matters.
Khan’s PTI and other political parties staged protests over the weekend and on Monday in various parts of the country over the alleged rigging. The party has challenged election results in several constituencies, even as the ECP denies any election fraud.