PESHAWAR: As the outcry by various political parties against alleged rigging in the July 25 polls gains momentum, the Awami National Party (ANP) has taken to the streets to register its protest and call for a re-election in the country.
The religious party, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), too, has announced a protest rally on Aug 6.
Rejecting the recently held polls for being “tainted” because they were conducted under the supervision of the army, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the caretaker government, ANP workers took out rallies on Monday across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, tribal areas and Karachi on a call for protests by party president Asfandyar Wali Khan.
Party workers and supporters held demonstrations in Karachi, Peshawar, Charsadda, Mardan, Swabi, Swat, Buner, Malakand, Peshawar, Nowshera, Dera Ismail Khan, Karak, Bannu, Dir Lower and other cities and towns. ANP workers in the tribal districts of Bajaur and Mohmand also organised demonstrations in their areas.
Asfandyar says descendants of Bacha Khan would fight political battles for their rights
In Peshawar, the party workers held a demonstration at Jinnah Park, led by ANP’s Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, while several roads in the city remained blocked to traffic.
Speaking at the rally in Charsadda, Mr Wali Khan said: “We had requested the ECP not to involve the army inside polling stations during the election process and no other party raised any objection. We knew if the army was involved in the election, it would become controversial.”
The ANP central president was joined by the party’s former general secretary Afrasiab Khattak. Mr Khan said the descendants of Bacha Khan would sacrifice anything for this land and fight political battles for their rights. If anyone thought that the country would be on a path of stability, they were probably living in a fool’s paradise, he said, adding that most political parties were mulling over various strategies to continue their protest against the massively rigged elections.
Mr Khattak said: “Our leaders helped us get freedom from the British and made sure we rule our own land but after 100 years, we are again being deprived of our right by the army.”
Addressing the party workers amid shouts of slogans about stealing ballot-boxes and the ANP’s mandate, the ANP central president said their protests would continue and the multiparty conference (called by Maulana Fazlur Rehman) were in talks about their future line of action. However, other parties had allowed their elected candidates to take oath as members of the national and provincial assemblies. He said the ANP had also allowed three of its members to join Akhtar Mengal’s party and become part of the new Balochistan government.
The protest in Nowshera was led by ANP general secretary Mian Iftikhar, who stressed that the people’s mandate had been ‘stolen’ with the help of state institutions.
Addressing a protest gathering at Nowshera’s Shobra Chowk, he said: “We are not ready to accept the results of the July 25 election.” He alleged that the judiciary, the ECP and the army had all played a role in the election.
Gathered in front of the Karachi Press Club, the ANP workers held up banners and placards stating that they rejected the results of the July 25 polls and demanded re-elections.
“A single party is gaining all favours of the powers that be. It is being imposed on the country with the stolen mandate it has been handed,” Shahi Syed, president of ANP Sindh, said while addressing the protesters.
He said the country could not progress unless it was governed by leaders who the people actually reposed faith in. “We are living in an age in which those who abused parliament have been allowed to decide the fate of this country,” he added.
He said the ANP had always accepted defeat when it had lost in the past, but the level of rigging in this election was unprecedented. “Pakistan was not created for the powerful establishment to crush people’s mandate under its feet.”
He said the chief justice of Pakistan should take cognisance of what transpired in the elections and order an investigation into “why the election commission’s heads allowed the armed forces to take part in the counting of ballots”.
He said his party had suffered a lot in the past when its cadres and leaders were killed by the Taliban or on ethnic grounds yet, he appreciated his workers who controlled their emotions despite ‘unacceptable’ results. “You should fear the time when we will not be able to control emotions of our youth,” he warned.