Lahore: Nawaz Sharif, the victorious head of the PML-N has told former national cricket captain Imran Khan to “show the sportsman’s spirit” and drop his complaints of vote-rigging. The Dispatch News Desk (DND) reports.
PML (N) chief who has secured a strong working majority in parliament, said the elections had been “by and large free and fair” and all sides should accept the results.
Khan’s supporters have complained about alleged efforts to prevent people likely to vote for his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party from getting to polling booths in last Saturday’s historic polls, with some activists holding demonstrations to demand re-polling in some constituencies.
Speaking to journalists, Sharif said that his party had accepted the local election results, where the PML-N had failed to win a majority of seats in provincial assemblies, particularly Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where Khan’s party won the highest number of seats. “We respect their mandate and similarly we expect them to respect our mandate,” he said. He also argued the PML-N had accepted the result of the elections in 2008 even though “our hands had been tied very badly by Mr Musharraf at that time”.
Pervez Musharraf, the former military dictator who toppled Sharif in a coup in 1999, was president at the time of the 2008 elections and had ensured there was no “level playing field”, Sharif said.
“But now one party and its leader is alleging that the elections had been rigged,” he said. “I think we should all show the sportsman’s spirit and accept the results of the election.”Because we also accept their mandate [in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa], we could very easily say that the elections there were also rigged, but we don’t say that because we don’t believe that.”
In his only public statement since Saturday’s contest Khan welcomed the high voter turnout but said the PTI would submit a detailed report on alleged rigging. Andleeb Abbas, the information secretary for the PTI in Punjab, said Sharif was wrong to call for the complaints to be dropped and said there needed to be fresh polls in affected areas.
“Imran being a sportsman will stand for what is free and right,” she said in response to Sharif’s comments. “If he is a sportsman and he feels that it is LBW [leg before wicket] and Imran doesn’t ask for a review by the umpire then he is a stupid sportsman.”
Abbas has been leading a sit-in demonstration in a neighbourhood of Lahore where she says the party has evidence of massive rigging including video that she claimed showed polling station staff marking ballot papers. “Every single part of this constituency has unanimously said that the result that came out was a joke compared to what was actually voted,” she said. “Everyone is very, very upset.”
On Monday the election observation mission fielded by the European Union released preliminary findings that praised the commitment by parties and voters despite efforts by Taliban militants to violently disrupt the polls. “Violence by non-state actors unbalanced the playing field and distorted the election process considerably in the concerned locations,” a statement said.
Michael Gahler, the chief observer, noted twice as many people stood for elections than in 2008. “While various aspects of the election process have improved, there were still shortcomings,” he said. “It is important that the framework for elections is further developed, so that democracy is strengthened.”