A senior Pakistani official confessed on Saturday to serving to manipulate ends in the nation’s elections — a startling declare strengthening a way that the vote was among the many least credible in Pakistan’s historical past, and deepening the turmoil that has seized the nation ever since individuals went to the polls this month.

The official, Liaquat Ali Chatha, is a prime administrative official in Punjab Province overseeing Rawalpindi, a garrison metropolis the place the army has its headquarters, and three adjoining districts. He stated he would resign from his place and switch himself in to the police.

“We transformed losers into winners, reversing margins of 70,000 votes of unbiased candidates for 13 nationwide Parliament seats,” he stated at a information convention on Saturday, referring to transferring votes from unbiased candidates aligned with Imran Khan, the previous prime minister whose social gathering the army had sought to sideline forward of the vote. He urged different high-ranking officers had been part of the scheme, and stated he was unable to sleep at evening after “stabbing the nation in its again.”

Mr. Chatha’s admission got here simply over per week since Pakistanis went to the polls for the primary time since Mr. Khan fell out with the army and was ousted by Parliament in 2022. Most had anticipated a simple victory for the social gathering backed by the nation’s highly effective army, however as an alternative, candidates aligned with Mr. Khan received extra seats than some other social gathering, although they fell in need of a easy majority.

Mr. Khan was not on the poll, being imprisoned and disqualified from working for workplace after convictions for crimes his supporters known as trumped-up, but the victory was clearly his. It was one of many greatest upsets in electoral historical past in Pakistan, the place the army has sometimes engineered election outcomes by winnowing the sphere of candidates utilizing intimidation, clearing the way in which for its most well-liked social gathering to win.

The success of candidates aligned with Mr. Khan’s social gathering, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or P.T.I., upended that playbook and pushed the nation’s political scene into uncharted territory.

Mr. Chatha’s confession appeared to lend weight to P.T.I. accusations that the army tampered with the vote rely in dozens of races, significantly in Punjab, the nation’s most populous province. Get together leaders have vowed to problem these ends in courtroom.

With Mr. Khan’s supporters, together with members of different smaller events in Sindh and Balochistan Provinces, vigorously protesting the election outcomes, P.T.I. leaders seized onto Mr. Chatha’s phrases as vindication.

“Rawalpindi commissioner’s conscience has been woke up,” stated Haleem Adil Sheikh, a P.T.I. chief in Karachi, Pakistan’s capital, addressing a big crowd of protesters on Saturday. “Each officer ought to comply with him and expose the huge rigging within the polls.”

The protests have been a rebuke to the nation’s army, which performed a monthslong crackdown on the P.T.I. earlier than the elections to safe a win by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or P.M.L.N.

Final week, the P.M.L.N., led by a three-time former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, introduced it had cobbled collectively a coalition together with the nation’s third-largest social gathering, the Pakistan Folks’s Get together, to steer the following authorities.

“The political events’ claims acquire new weight with this surprising confession from a high-ranking official,” stated Tausif Ahmed Khan, a political analyst primarily based in Karachi. Mr. Chatha’s claims elevate “critical issues in regards to the integrity of the electoral course of and the potential illegitimacy of any future authorities fashioned primarily based on these contested outcomes,” he added.

Including to the criticism, the Human Rights Fee of Pakistan, the nation’s unbiased watchdog, launched a scathing report on Saturday expressing critical issues in regards to the credibility and integrity of the Feb. 8 vote. The report noticed that the integrity of the elections was “compromised” by strain from “extra-democratic quarters,” which means the army.

It was not instantly clear what would outcome from Mr. Chatha’s information convention. Authorities officers ordered him on Saturday to report back to the provincial authorities, in line with a directive revealed by the governor of Punjab.

The identical day, the Election Fee of Pakistan, the principle physique that conducts polls within the nation, rejected Mr. Chatha’s accusations and ordered an “neutral probe” into complaints that election outcomes had been manipulated.

As of Sunday, it was unsure whether or not the Rawalpindi police had arrested him.

Christina Goldbaum contributed reporting.


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