ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s opposition parties gathered in Islamabad to protest what they said was rigging in last month’s polls.
The protest Wednesday was called by Pakistan Alliance for Free and Fair Elections, an 11-party coalition formed last Friday.
Leaders of various parties demanded senior officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan resign for failing to stay neutral during the polls. Some leaders also blamed the judiciary and the military for interference.
“The judiciary and the military have shown that they are no more neutral,” said Fazl-ur-Rehman, a leader of MMA, an alliance of religious leaning political parties.
Various smaller protests were held in parts of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces as well.
The demonstration in Islamabad, failed to get large crowds, as the top leadership of two major parties, the PPP and PML-N stayed away.
Shehbaz Sharif, the president of PML-N, and the younger brother of the ousted and jailed former premier Nawaz Sharif, was criticized heavily on social media for staying away from the protest, reportedly due to bad weather that barred him from traveling from Lahore.
“Shehbaz Sharif is not the resistance hero Nawaz is looking for. Shahbaz is not the Leader of the Opposition this country needs!” wrote Twitter user Nadir Daman.
Despite their complaints, the protesting parties have decided to take their seats in the upcoming parliament.
“We do not want to give them a walk over ... They deprived us of a majority in this august house of parliament. We’re going to fight on every front, whether it is inside parliament or outside parliament,” said Mushahid Hussein Syed, a leader of the PML-N.
He added the opposition had a cumulative vote bank of 25 million, as opposed to 15 million of PTI, the party that won at the polls.
Meanwhile, PTI said the opposition had a right to peaceful protests. In his victory speech, PTI leader Imran Khan also supported recounting of votes in any constituency where rigging was suspected.
Khan’s party emerged with the greatest number of seats in elections that were held on July 25 across Pakistan.
But a glitch in the electronic result transmission system delayed the results in several constituencies. Opposition parties also claimed that in some places their agents were illegally thrown out during the vote counting process in violation of election laws.
In the country’s parliamentary system of governance, the prime minister is elected by the parliament, not through a direct vote of the public. Khan is expected to take the oath of office next week.
The opposition plans to continue their protest and also to organize a national conference on rigging in which they intend to invite members of the civil society as well.
The alliance has also given a call for a protest Thursday outside provincial election commissions.