Pakistan commission rejects poll-rigging claims

2015-07-23 22:10
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. (Aamir Qureshi, AFP)

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. (Aamir Qureshi, AFP)

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Islamabad - A judicial commission on Thursday rejected claims by Pakistani cricketer-turned-opposition leader Imran Khan that the country's 2013 general election was rigged, saying the poll was largely fair.

Khan claimed his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party had been robbed of victory in the ballot by a shadowy conspiracy involving poll officials and the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PMLN), which won by a landslide.

PTI staged a large sit-in protest in front of parliament for several months last year to try to force Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from power over the claims.

Sharif held on and in March agreed to set up a judicial commission to investigate claims of foul play in the landmark poll, which marked the first handover of power from one elected civilian government to another in Pakistan's history.

On Thursday the three-judge commission, headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, delivered its 237-page report.

It said the election was "in large part organised and conducted fairly and in accordance with the law" and allegations of a plot to rig the result were not supported by evidence.

The report pointed to shortcomings by the Electoral Commission of Pakistan, but said the evidence did not support claims the result was not a "true and fair reflection of the mandate given by the electorate".

After the release, Sharif said in a nationwide televised address that his party was going to "forget whatever happened after the 2013 elections" and also hoped that his rivals would also avoid negative politics in future.

PTI chief Imran Khan said he accepted the commission's decision, but would give a detailed reaction later after reading their report in full.

Local and foreign observers said the 2013 polls were credible, and some analysts believe the demonstrations were co-ordinated by the powerful army as a means of reasserting its dominance over civilian authorities.

The PTI's sit-in protest, which eventually lasted for 126 days, coincided with a similar demonstration led by populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri.

The protests flared into clashes with police and destabilised Sharif's government last August, briefly sparking frenzied rumours of an impending military coup.

The protests drew thousands to the streets of Islamabad, but Khan and Qadri's call failed to mobilise mass support beyond the capital in a country of 200 million people.

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