Islamist party boycotts vote in Karachi, alleges rigging

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A major Islamist party on Saturday announced it would boycott Pakistan's elections in the country's financial hub Karachi and another city, accusing a rival party of rigging and violence.

Jammat-e-Islami (JI) is thought to be the third largest party in the city after the secular Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which were coalition partners in the outgoing government.

"These are false elections, armed workers of the MQM are terrorising people and rigging the elections," Muhammad Hussain Mehanti, a JI party leader announced at a press conference.

"MQM workers are openly displaying arms and torturing people, they are harassing people, how it is possible to conduct fair and free elections in such an atmosphere?" Mehnati said.

Cricket star Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) also accused the MQM of major rigging in the city.

JI withdrew all of its 29 candidates who were contesting for national and provincial seats, as well as withdrawing from the city of Hyderabad in Sindh. The party did not take part in the last elections in 2008.

Responding to the boycott, Haider Abbas Rizvi, a senior MQM leader, said: "By boycotting the elections, (JI) deprived the people of Karachi and Hyderabad of democratically defeating it through ballot."

The election commission also raised concerns about threats to its staff in the port city, which it says has prevented them from performing their duties.

"In other instances, attempts have been made to hijack the vehicles transporting voting material from the returning officers to the polling stations. This has caused serious delays in polling," it said in a statement.

The independent Free and Fair Election Network tweeted from its account that three of its observers had been beaten up by MQM workers in a district of Karachi.

Arif Alvi, a senior PTI leader, also charged that "extensive rigging" had taken place, claiming that thousands of its supporters had been prevented from voting.

JI also complained of a delayed start in voting in many parts of Karachi, which last year saw record violence linked to ethnic and political tensions.