- With only four days left in the general election, major political parties have expressed reservations over the impartiality of polls
- PML-N’s Pervaiz Rasheed warns ‘those engineering Imran Khan’s victory’ of serious consequences to Pakistan’s political stability
- MQM-P convener claims party is being denied level-playing field in Sindh
ISLAMABAD: With only four days left for the general election, almost all mainstream political parties of the country, except Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), have expressed serious reservations over the impartiality of the polls, saying they are being denied a level-playing field.
Though this election marks the second transfer of power from one democratic government to another, controversy mars these polls and questions are being raised over the neutrality of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the caretaker setup.
Beleaguered Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has called out powers-that-be over alleged interference in the run-up to the polls to bring their “blue-eyed” at the helm of affairs.
The party’s claims of foul play in the run-up to the general election come amidst repeated assurances by the Pakistani military establishment that it has no direct role in the conduct of the polls.
On Friday, the senators of the PML-N demanded the ECP and caretaker federal government to take notice of the attempts to manipulate the upcoming polls.
Speaking during a session convened at the request of the PML-N, Senator Javed Abbasi warned “dark clouds are looming over the elections” which he said were a threat to national integrity.
“It is not just the PML-N, others parties have also registered their reservations over the prevailing circumstance,” he said as he went on to list several concerns of his party.
In reference to the cases registered against the party workers, he said, “Filters are being installed before the elections and that police personnel are hounding PML-N leaders.” He questioned the silence of the ECP over these arrests and urged it to “open its eyes” and take action to ensure transparency in the election.
“Only one person is allowed to run his campaign freely,” he said in a reference to Imran Khan’s intensive countrywide electioneering. “What is our fault,” he questioned and asked the authorities concerned to address the reservations of all political parties. “Don’t establish customs which you might have to regret tomorrow,” he warned.
PML-N’s Pervaiz Rasheed warned that if Imran Khan wins despite “being an unpopular leader” and the PML-N—despite being a popular party— loses then the anger won’t be against the winners, “but those who enabled these winners”.
Referring to the reports in the international media, Rasheed said the international media is alleging pre-poll rigging was continuing in the country.
“Several PML-N leaders were pressurised to leave the party,” he said, adding if the results of the upcoming election are micromanaged, the situation of the country could worsen.
He said elements in Pakistan had not learnt from the history of its elections, adding, “Don’t commit acts that will damage your reputation… do not interfere in the election results.”
Senator Mushaid Hussain Syed claimed that PML-N leaders are being coerced to shift their loyalties to join the ‘jeep group’. The PML-N will reveal the names and ranks of the persons who are allegedly forcing the party workers to switch loyalties, he added.
He also lashed out at the caretaker government, saying the caretaker government has failed to deliver and suggested for an amendment in the constitution to completely eliminate the caretaker setup, which “is playing the role of post office”.
“Let free elections be held now… or the reaction will be such that no force will be able to stop it.”
He also raised question over the authenticity of the accountability court verdict in the Avenfield verdict that sent Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Capt (r) Muhammad Safdar to jail, saying the verdict was announced immediately after something was brought into the court in a bag of Serena Hotels”.
Another party senator, Abdul Qayyum, expressed a lack of confidence in Punjab caretaker Chief Minister Dr Hassan Askari, saying he doesn’t possess the experience required for his post.
Dr Asif Kirmani claimed that only PML-N was being targeted as its workers are being harassed. Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq expressed reservations over the decision to give magisterial powers to Rangers during elections.
The PPP had earlier conveyed similar concerns.
PTI’s Syed Shibli Faraz, however, claimed the polls would be fair, saying political parties claiming the rigging in the upcoming elections must approach the ECP rather than hurling mere allegations.
“My party will go with you to the election watchdog if you have any evidence in this regard,” he said.
Surprisingly, the Senate chairman also threw his support behind the ECP, saying the commission was strengthened and its members were nominated by the parliament so we should trust them.
Lending credence to apprehensions over the fairness of the election process, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) Convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui also expressed concerns over the manipulation of the polls, saying his party has been denied a level-playing field in Sindh.
Siddiqui said that his party has not yet received permission to hold public gatherings at Mirpurkhas, Sukkur and Hyderabad.
He said that the state should tell them whether they are allowed to contest the forthcoming polls or not so that they can make a new course of action.
Kanwar Naveed Jameel, the party leader and candidate for a provincial seat in Karachi, alleged that dozens of party workers have been arrested from Karachi, Thatta and Hyderabad.
“A few were released and there are numbers of them who are still missing,” said Jamil.
The MQM-P has nominated its candidates for the national and provincial seats in Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas and Sukkur.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Awami National Party (ANP) have also expressed reservations over lack of the level-playing in the run-up to the polls.