ISLAMABAD - PTI chief Imran Khan on Sunday said Nawaz Sharif-led PML-N government has started pre-poll rigging in Gilgit Baltistan (GB) by nominating Barjees Tahir as governor, and warned of taking to the street if rigging took place.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman said that Nawaz has appointed his own ‘umpire’ but PTI will win the elections. “It is illegal, unconstitutional and unethical and we are going to challenge the appointment of governor GB,” Mr Khan told a press conference in Islamabad.

The PTI chief was wearing a colourful woollen Chitrali cap and sitting next to him was prominent Kashmiri leader Barrister Sultan who joined PTI on Thursday. Imran said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif can try whatever tactics he wants, but the PTI will win the election in Kashmir as well as the next general elections.

Within no time Ex-Information Minister Sheikh Rasheed too remarked that the PTI should not feel proud by taking Barrister Sultan in its fold because he switched his loyalties many times in the past.

The PTI chairman said that the government had maintained 12 cabinet ministers – all of them PML-N members – in Gilgit-Baltistan’s caretaker setup, instead of three cabinet members. He added that the chief election commissioner was also a PML-N activist.

Khan told reporters that he was presenting the facts well before the election unlike in the general election. This time his party would pre-emptively resist poll-rigging in Gilgit Baltistan, he said.

He cited the example of then east Pakistan (now Bangladesh) with regards to deprivation of rights, and made four demands with regard to Gilgit-Baltistan whose people, according to Khan, have been rendered as second-class citizens.

He asked for the rights of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan so as to not let the people ‘“feel deprived like the people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir”. He also demanded free and fair elections. An opportunity should be given to genuine representatives to rise up, Khan added. He also asked for devolution and decentralisation of power and independence. “They should be able to run their own affairs.” The region is heading backwards and should be given a chance to develop and progress, he added.

About the upcoming Senate elections scheduled for March 5, he said that buying and selling of voters for Senate elections has already started. He said that people belonging to a particular province should not be able to contest Senate polls from another province.

He criticised the process of secret balloting in the Senate arguing that the process is rusted and rotten and needs an overhaul. “Why the Senate polls should be held under a secret ballot when we all know it gives rise to the chance of horse-trading,” he remarked.

“I request all the political parties to bring constitutional amendment for the open balloting for the Senate elections rather than the existing practice of secret balloting which opens the window for corrupt practices,” the PTI chief said. He also called for adopting direct elections method for the Senate.

The PTI chairman gave the example of the Pakistan Peoples Party which has only five seats in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly and is contesting two candidates, adding that each Senate seat required the votes of at least seven to eight MPAs. Elaborating on his point, he said the only way PPP can succeed in winning those two Senate seats is through bribery as in his view there was no other way around it.

He added that “one of our MPAs supported a candidate and we have asked the Speaker of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly to take action against him and will take further action if charges of bribery are proved” against him. “What services will a senator offer to the country if he comes into position through bribery,” the PTI chairman asked.

Imran Khan said his party awarded tickets to the candidates purely on this basis for GB elections. “Someone contacted our party to even donate 150 million rupees in return for Senate ticket but we refused,” he said. Speaking on the occasion, PTI’s president for Azad Kashmir, Barrister Sultan Mehmood announced that over 50 politicians from Azad Kashmir were joining PTI.

The PTI chairman termed Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) a ‘militant wing’ of the ruling PML-N. The PTI chief said that Pemra should be shut down as it was no more an independent body. He said Pemra was tasked with censoring criticism against the government, instead of its actual job of regulation.

Imran said that a dictator held local government elections in Pakistan but a democratic civilian government has avoided doing the same. He added that both major political parties of the country - PPP and PML-N - have opposed holding LG elections and have refused to devolve power to the people while the PTI is reintroducing the local government system in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.