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Wounded Ex-Lawmaker Among Scores Of Candidates Challenging Results Of Disputed Pakistani Elections


A sit-in protest is held by the National Democratic Movement against the shooting of its leader and election fraud in North Waziristan on February 12.
A sit-in protest is held by the National Democratic Movement against the shooting of its leader and election fraud in North Waziristan on February 12.

Mohsin Dawar and his supporters were protesting alleged voting irregularities in their constituency during Pakistan's February 8 general elections when security forces opened fire on them.

Dawar, a former lawmaker who heads the secular National Democratic Movement (NDM), was among the 15 protesters shot and wounded outside a military garrison in North Waziristan, a district in northwestern Pakistan, on February 10. Three others were killed.

When the authorities released the results of the national elections, nearly three days after the legal deadline, they declared Misbah Uddin of the Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl, an Islamist party, the winner in North Waziristan.

But the NDM claims Dawar, an activist who has been a fierce critic of the authorities, won the vote and alleges Uddin came in third, according to an initial tally of the results from individual polling stations. Dawar's party claims that local election officials tampered with the votes.

National Democratic Movement leader Mohsin Dawar is being treated for his bullet wounds.
National Democratic Movement leader Mohsin Dawar is being treated for his bullet wounds.

Dawar is one of the scores of candidates across Pakistan who are challenging the results of the disputed elections, which were marred by widespread allegations of vote rigging and irregularities. Some candidates have vowed to challenge the results in court and held protests outside election offices across the country.

'Systematic' Rigging

In a major upset, candidates backed by jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan won the most seats in the parliamentary elections, but not enough to secure a majority. Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI) party, which was barred from the elections, claims its allies won dozens of more seats and that its mandate was stolen.

Khan's rivals, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People's Party (PPP), said on February 13 that they had agreed to form a government.

Khan's allies have already filed legal cases and said they will challenge the results in the Supreme Court. His supporters, meanwhile, have staged sporadic protests across the South Asian country of some 240 million people.

Many have blamed the alleged voting irregularities on Pakistan's powerful army, which is the ultimate kingmaker in the nuclear-armed country. The military fell out with Khan and was accused of orchestrating his jailing and the crackdown on the PTI ahead of the elections.

"The election rigging, both prepoll and on the day, was systematic and targeted," said Yasser Kureshi, a political scientist at Oxford University who tracks elections across South Asia. He said most of the irregularities were aimed to ensuring that the "PTI could not capitalize on its public support to win a plurality or majority of seats in this election."

Other parties have also alleged widespread vote rigging.

"These elections were the most maligned and rigged in Pakistan's 76-year history," said Khushal Khan Kakar, the leader of the Pakhtunkhwa National Awami Party, a secular party based in the southwestern province of Balochistan.

In Quetta, the capital of the southwestern Balochistan Province, shops were closed to protest election rigging on February 13.
In Quetta, the capital of the southwestern Balochistan Province, shops were closed to protest election rigging on February 13.

The Election Commission initially declared Kakar the winner in his constituency but overturned the results several days later.

Demonstrators have held strikes, sit-ins, and roadblocks across Balochistan in recent days to protest alleged rigging.

Despite the widespread allegations, caretaker Prime Minister Anwar ul-Haq Kakar and the Election Commission defended the polls, which they claimed were free and fair.

'We Will Continue To Protest'

In North Waziristan, Dawar's supporters have continued to stage protests against the election results and the authorities' use of force against demonstrators. "All the markets and roads here will be closed until this barbarity and injustice is addressed," said Sher Wali Khan, a protest leader.

Kakar on February 12 accused Dawar's supporters of arriving outside the military garrison "brandishing Kalashnikov rifles," a claim rejected by the protesters.

Sayed Jamal, a local police officer in North Waziristan, appeared to contradict Kakar's claims by saying that government forces did not sustain any injuries.

"We had no chance to protect ourselves when the security forces began shooting straight at us," Asad Dawar, a local NDM leader who was wounded, told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal.

The party has vowed to continue its daily protests and legally challenge the election result in court.

"We will do everything in our power to protect our rights," said Nadeem Askar, NDM's secretary-general in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

  • 16x9 Image

    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

  • 16x9 Image

    Umar Daraz Wazir

    Umar Daraz Wazir is a correspondent for RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal in North Waziristan, Pakistan. His reporting focuses on militant violence and the challenges of rehabilitating the region after nearly two decades of insurgent violence.

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