Levelled poll rigging charges at PTI leader’s behest: ex-Pindi commissioner

ISLAMABAD: In a dramatic twist, former commissioner Rawalpindi Liaquat Ali Chattha Thursday backed out of his statement of manipulation of poll results, claiming he had done so at the behest of a senior PTI leader who is a proclaimed offender. Chattha said he was extremely ashamed of his act and embarrassed and also sought an apology from the nation.

He made the startling revelation in his signed three-page statement, addressed to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) secretary, who is part of the four-member inquiry committee.

Rawalpindi Commissioner Liaquat Ali Chattha speaks at a press conference at his office in the city on February 17, 2024. — Online

The former commissioner said the entire planning of maligning the state institutions was made after approval from senior PTI leadership.

The primary aim of the proposed press conference, he said, was to create sensation and drama, to augment the false narratives being built by the PTI.

“I take full responsibility for my actions and surrender myself before the authorities for any kind of legal action,” he said.

“The name of the chief justice of Pakistan was taken during my news conference on February 17, 2024 with the aim of creating mistrust in general public against him. The chief justice of Pakistan did not have any role in the entire election process. However, I was specifically asked by the said prominent leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf to name the chief justice of Pakistan,” he added. The aims behind naming the CJP, he admitted, were manifold. I was told that it would help create a momentum of the entire narrative as the PTI had already been sowing seeds of doubts and distrust in the public minds against the chief justice of Pakistan.

Furthermore, he continued, it was also aimed that through the press conference, the entire election process would be tainted. To this end, raising questions against all constitutional institutions and authorities was required. Similarly, he said, the chief election commissioner was named with the aim of raising questions about the entire election process throughout Pakistan. “It was further decided that the press conference would be held in a coordinated manner. It was planned in advance that the PTI would give a call for countrywide protests against the election process.

“The press conference was to be conducted on the specific day for which the call for protests is made by the PTI. It was as per this planning that the press conference was conducted by me on 17th February when the PTI had called for countrywide protests,” Chattha stated. “I have remained in civil services of Punjab for past 32 years and was last posted as commissioner Rawalpindi. I was due to retire after reaching age of superannuation on 13 March 2024.

“During my career in the civil services of Punjab, I had worked against multiple highly relevant and esteemed positions. After the General Election 2018, when the PTI formed the government in Punjab, I remained posted against senior provincial posts, including my posting as the provincial secretary to the Government of Punjab,” he recalled.

While posted as provincial secretary, he said to have got opportunities to develop relationships with senior and prominent political figures of the PTI and it was naturally in his interest to develop personal relations with these prominent individuals and he actively did so. It was during that time that he developed cordial personal friendship with one of the prominent leaders of the PTI. He said that after the May-9 2023 incident, along with other PTI leaders, that prominent party leader also absconded from courts, and he was declared as a proclaimed offender (PO) and he went into hiding. “Throughout this time, I had been in direct contact with him and I kept on discreetly helping him on various issues.

“Consequently, my relationship with that leader evolved into a very close friendship based on high level of trust,” he said.

After the elections 2024, on February 11, he said he secretly travelled to Lahore and held a meeting with him. It was in this meeting that the PTI leader made an offer to him that if he would play a role in supporting PTI’s ongoing narrative of rigging in general election and maligning of state institutions, he would ensure a lucrative position for him in future.

“He informed me that the entire planning had been made after consultation and approval of the PTI senior leadership. This proposal was made by the said individual in consideration of the fact that I was about to retire from service. He was also aware of the fact that I was under pressure due to the forthcoming retirement.

“After having remained part of the services for 32 years, it is naturally hard for any civil servant to let go of all perks, privileges and authorities which are attached with the same. We had detailed discussion on the proposed press conference and he conveyed to me the general direction which was needed to be adopted by me,” Chattha recalled.

Initially, he continued, it was proposed by him that he would write the entire narrative and submit it as part of his resignation letter. However, the proposal was dropped by the said PTI leader as such a written resignation would not create any sensation for their narrative building.

“After detailed discussions, it was agreed that a press conference would be conducted by me at a time and date to be conveyed after consultation and approval of the senior PTI leadership. The primary aim of the proposed press conference was to create sensation and drama, augmenting false narratives being built by the PTI. It was towards this aim that the press conference was called for Pakistan Super League (PSL) on Feb 17, 2024 wherein I made the sensationalised statement,” he added.

Similarly, he said it was agreed that he would give sweeping and emotional statements by suggesting that all the seats were being won by PTI candidates and that he helped in changing the entire results against the party. Anyone having knowledge of the election process would know that such sweeping shifts cannot possibly be made in elections by the returning officers (ROs). However, these generalised statements were thought to be sufficient for the purposes of malicious narrative building.

“It was with the same intent of creating drama and sensation that during the press conference, I had stated that I attempted suicide and that I should be hanged in public,” he added.

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