‘Yet to take bull by horns’: ECP lashes out at Punjab govt over ‘harassment of candidates’

  • Electoral watchdog asks provincial govt to take ‘immediate corrective measures’
  • CM Askari says have no political agenda

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Sunday expressed concern over reports of harassment and threats to election candidates in Multan and Narowal and requested the Punjab government to take “immediate corrective measures”.

In a letter to caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi, ECP secretary Babar Yaqoob has said that free and fair polls can only be achieved in a conducive law and order environment.

The letter also states that the relevant officials were made aware earlier of threats to political leaders and contesting candidates.

“It appears, unfortunately, that concerned authorities have yet to take the bull by the horns,” the letter reads.

“There have been media reports that candidates have been harassed and physically threatened at various places. Incidents like the ones at Narowal and Multan require immediate corrective measures,” he said.

He cautioned that under the ECP’s constitutional mandate of organising and conducting elections honestly, justly and fairly under Article 218(3) of the Constitution can only be achieved in a “conducive law and order environment”.

“I have been, therefore, directed in the spirit of Article 220 to enjoin, through you, the police and the administration not to rest on their oars till the task of a free and fair election is achieved,” he added.

A copy of the letter was forwarded to the other three CMs and the caretaker PM.

Earlier in the day, Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi said that his team did not have any political agenda.

“I have never been involved in practical politics nor want to be,” he said.

“I will do my best to fulfil the responsibility given to me,” he asserted.

“We are providing full support to ECP,” he added.

“Administrative changes have been made on a provincial level to ensure the transparency of the election,” he explained.

The ECP’s missive follows reports a PML-N candidate in Multan was beaten up by security officials and forced to change his vote.

The PML-N candidate also told mediapersons that he was being asked to visit the agency’s local office.

Later, PML-N’s Siraj explained in another video that the entire event was a result of misunderstanding.

Visibly frustrated by the recent desertions of several ticketholders of his party, deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif had also alleged that the PML-N candidates were being forced to change their loyalties to ensure his party’s defeat in the polls.

Talking to reporters outside Harley Street Clinic where his wife Kulsoom Nawaz is being kept on ventilator for the past few weeks, the PML-N supremo had said, “Our election candidates are being called up and threatened. Such events will be damaging for the country’s future.”

Nawaz had disclosed that his party’s candidates were being forced to join the rival Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Sharif had also said, “If polls were rigged, then a storm would rise that would be difficult to tackle.”

In particular, Nawaz brought up the case of Rana Muhammad Iqbal Siraj, alleging that the PP-219 Multan candidate was “slapped and threatened of dire consequences” if he contests the 2018 elections from the PML-N platform.

“I’ve talked to Rana Siraj and he told me that his godown was raided to end his association with me. He was summoned to the ISI office in Multan and pressured to return the PML-N ticket,” Nawaz had said, adding that Siraj was warned that they will destroy his business and victimise his wife and children.

He had added, “PML-N ticket holders in Rajanpur and Sargodha have also been forced to stand as independent candidates…anyone standing by me is under threat, massive pre-poll rigging is happening all over Pakistan.”

Maryam Nawaz had also claimed earlier that PML-N’s candidates for the upcoming general elections were being targeted.