–Army officers pressurised candidates to change loyalties, Farhatullah Babar alleges
LAHORE: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) central leaders have described the latest spate of media trial against former president Asif Ali Zardari and his sister PPP Women Wing President Faryal Talpur as a clear case of sheer political victimisation and a well-calculated pre-poll rigging move.
Addressing a press conference at Bilawal House in Lahore, the PPP leaders Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Farhatullah Babar, Opposition Leader in Senate Sherry Rehman, Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed and Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar and others said that they find the timing of this case particularly suspicious.
They said that the case that has been dredged up against Asif Ali Zardari and Faryal Talpur was instituted three years ago. It has been dragged out of cold storage two weeks before an election as a clear case of political victimisation and it can be classified as pre-poll rigging, they added.
The PPP leaders pointed out that this investigation, its timing and the media trial that has begun at this point in the campaign smacks of clear intent to damage the party leadership and influence our voters. “The fact that the investigation is headed up by Bashir Memon, FIA DG, whose brother is contesting the election against the PPP in Matiari, Sindh, and whom PPP’s Election Cell has been asking to be removed for his politically partisan behaviour is all the more malicious. The Additional FIA DG heading up this particular investigation is even more blatantly controversial: he is Najaf Mirza who has been active against President Zardari since he facilitated his torture in jail in 1999,” they added. There is an active FIR against Najaf Mirza as well, therefore it is shocking that he has been made in charge of the investigation.
The senior PPP leaders further said that the scale of disinformation is also high. The amounts mentioned allege that the Zardari Group is somehow involved in white collar crimes and money laundering of Rs 35 billion and more. “All of the above is factually wrong, and deliberately misleading. The one company in question has not done anything illegal or used at any point for any criminal activity. Even the amount it allegedly transacted business is one and a half crore rupees, which as a loan was on record returned. None of this amounts to money-laundering or criminal transaction. Both are allegations which shall be contested in court,” they reasoned.
The PPP leaders said that they were deeply saddened at the fact that Zardari and Talpur have been put on the ECL, given that others like Nawaz Sharif and Maryam, were on trial for months but never put on ECL until after the NAB court sentenced them now. They claimed that it was quite clear that there was a double standard in providing justice.
“The PPP and Zardari have always faced down cases and witch hunts without ever running away. This is all part of what looks like an elaborate conspiracy to rig the polls and strip PPP of a level playing field. From KP to Punjab and Sindh, all across the country our candidates and supporters are being pressed to switch loyalties and change their political tickets,” they further stated.
BABAR ALLEGES INVOLVEMENT OF ARMY OFFICERS:
“In Sindh the micromanagement of the election is evident at all levels of political tiers, the GDA and its allies are being generously facilitated. In Sindh our party has officially notified us of Col Abid Shah in Sukkur, and Major Shehzad in Badin as being particularly active against PPP members. In KP for example, we have been told of a Col Mugheez who is overly active in pressuring our party members and supporters to switch to the Kings party,” Babar said.
Senior PPP leader Farhatullah Babar says at a press conference that complaints of candidates being pressured by members of security agencies have been received and they should be probed — mentions 3 names given by those being harassed to switch allegiances pic.twitter.com/9M5R55GVA8
— omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi) July 10, 2018
“In Punjab, the same process is magnified across the province. There’s a sense that there’s a new IJI being made for 2018, Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s campaign has also encountered alarming roadblocks and media blackouts all over the country. First in Lyari, then on the way to Uch Sharif and then later in Multan. Jalsa permissions are also held up or plainly denied in many parts of KP while others are being allowed.”
They argued, “The same uneven playing field is on display wherever we campaign, as our posters and display messages are being systematically removed while others carry on with their voting symbol and candidates faces all over the constituencies.”
The PPP leaders further said that the growing media gags and press censorship signals the onset of a dark period of political engineering, which is busy using state resources to stack the deck against progressive political parties with an ideological base and vote bank.
“While candidates from our parties are disqualified on flimsy grounds, it is very troubling that about 150 candidates from violent extremist organisations, including some on the 4th Schedule for terrorism, have been magically cleared to contest the forthcoming election,” they added.