Thursday, January 11, 2024

No evidence to back Zardari's claim of Afghan citizens being registered as voters in KP

PPP’s KP wing fails to provide any documentation, information or proof to back Zardari’s accusation

Pakistan Peoples Party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari. — AFP/File
Pakistan Peoples Party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari. — AFP/File

There is no evidence to support a claim made by Pakistan Peoples Party’s Asif Ali Zardari that nationals of Afghanistan have been unlawfully registered as voters in Pakistan in the run up to the 2024 parliamentary election.

On December 11, in an interview to Aaj Television, Pakistan’s former president Asif Ali Zardari claimed that his rival, former prime minister Imran Khan, has had undocumented Afghan refugees added to the electoral rolls in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

“You know why he [Khan] speaks in support of Afghan [refugees]? Because he [Khan] has had the Afghanis vote registered,” Zardari alleged, “He [Khan] got their national identity cards made in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and had them [Afghan citizens] added as voters.”

The former president and co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) further went on that Khan had created “fake lists” of voters to gain an advantage in the general election.

“In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he [Khan] has declared Afghan citizens as Pakistani citizens,” Zardari claimed, adding that the Election Commission of Pakistan may already be investigating the matter.

The accusation was repeated by another politician the next day on the same news channel.

“Zardari is telling us that in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa wrong votes have been included in the [electoral rolls] specially that of Afghan citizens,” Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, the president of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, said. Rehman also called on the Election Commission of Pakistan to immediately probe the alleged wrongdoing.

To determine the authenticity of the claim, Geo Fact Check reached out to Rida Qazi, the public information officer at the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), the government-run body that maintains and issues identification documents in Pakistan.

Qazi directed Geo Fact Check to contact the ministry of interior, adding that the ministry deals with matters of citizenship.

Geo Fact Check then wrote to Aftab Akbar Durrani, the federal secretary at the ministry of interior, on December 20, requesting him to share information about illegal and undocumented Afghan refugees who have been registered as voters, using purportedly “fake” identity cards.

Without commenting on the claim, Durrani again directed Geo Fact Check back to NADRA.

Pakistan has not had a federal interior minister after the caretaker minister for interior resigned on December 15.

Separately, Geo Fact Check reached out to Syed Nadeem Haider, the spokesperson of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), on January 7 to inquire if the electoral body was probing claims of Afghan citizens being added to the list of voters, ahead of the national polls.

“No [such] inquiry has been initiated by us [ECP] so far,” Haider told Geo Fact Check over the phone, “Neither have we got any such request [from anyone]. The electoral rolls have been frozen already for the next polls.”

Even Zardari’s political party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, was not able to establish their co-chairman’s claim.

Nayyer Hussain Bokhari, the secretary general of the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians, alleged that the former president made the statement based on information provided to him by the party’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa wing.

But the PPP’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa wing also failed to provide any documentation, information or proof to back Zardari’s accusation.

Gohar Ali Inqilabi, the deputy information secretary of Pakistan Peoples Party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, admitted to Geo Fact Check that there was “no specific data” collected by his party to show that Afghan citizens have been illegally registered to vote in Pakistan’s 2024 election.

With additional reporting by Saman Amjad.

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