Senior Pakistan official says he helped rig elections, will hand himself over to police

A senior bureaucrat said on Saturday he helped rig Pakistan’s elections, a week after polls marred by allegations of manipulation returned no clear winner.

Liaqat Ali Chattha, commissioner of the garrison city of Rawalpindi, where the country’s powerful military has its headquarters, said he would hand himself over to police.

There have been widespread allegations of rigging after authorities switched off the country’s mobile phone network on election day and the count took more than 24 hours.

The army-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), short of a majority, has announced a partnership with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and a handful of smaller parties to form the next government.

Chattha said he personally supervised rigging of votes in Rawalpindi, before stepping down from his post.

“We converted the losers into winners, reversing margins of 70,000 votes in 13 national assembly seats,” he told reporters.

“For committing such a heinous crime, I will hand myself over to the police,” he said, also implicating the head of the election commission and the country’s top judge.

The election commission rejected Chattha’s allegations, but said in a statement that it would “hold an inquiry”.

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Leading advocacy group the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said after Chattha’s announcement that the “involvement of the state bureaucracy in rigging in Pakistan is beginning to be exposed”.

Candidates from the PML-N and PPP claimed most of the seats in Rawalpindi, sweeping aside candidates loyal to jailed former prime minister Imran Khan, the target of a sweeping crackdown.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party called nationwide protests against the alleged rigging on Saturday.

A small number of supporters took to the streets in major urban centres, with the largest gathering of around 4,000 people in its stronghold northern city of Peshawar.

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In the central city of Lahore, police detained senior party member Salman Akram Raja and around a dozen supporters, surrounding the party headquarters, but said they had all been released by late afternoon.

Senior PTI official Ali Muhammad Khan said after the protests that Chattha’s statement proved his party was cheated.

“We must be returned our mandate,” he told reporters in Islamabad.

PTI defied a months-long crackdown that shattered its campaigning and forced candidates to run as independents, gaining more votes than any other party.

But it has been unwilling to enter a coalition with its opponents, paving the way for PML-N to form the next government.

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