- Senator Rabbani questions deployment of army personnel inside polling stations, ECP’s silence over victimisation of two political parties
- PML-N senators lambaste interim CM Askari for giving pro-PTI statement in interview to Indian media
ISLAMABAD: Former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani on Saturday lambasted the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and caretaker setup for their “deafening silence” in the face of ostensible irregularities ahead of the general elections.
Speaking during a session in the Upper House, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) stalwart warned of dire consequences in case the elections were rigged as he questioned the intentions of the state institutions.
The army, which has drawn flak from all quarters, has been accused of “political engineering”, a charge it denies.
Rabbani too criticised the enhanced role of the military in the polls and asked the ECP why it had decided to deploy the military personnel inside the polling stations.
Questioning the ambiguity surrounding the deployment of forces, the senator chided the election watchdog, saying it had not defined a code of conduct or terms of reference to governing the deployment of the army on polling day.
“At first, the ECP kept saying that soldiers would be deployed outside polling stations. Now it is saying they will be also be deployed inside. What is the reason for their being stationed inside?” he asked.
He also questioned the role of the military inside the polling stations, saying, “What will their function be?”
“How can these elections be called free, fair and transparent?” he questioned, adding that the ECP’s silence on the matter was criminal. Rabbani also questioned the ECP’s role in allowing certain members of banned outfits to contest the polls.
“Did the ECP [summon] details of contestants [belonging to] banned outfits? Did it ask for records of those candidates who have cases registered against them?” he questioned.
“Under which section of the law are these individuals being allowed to contest the elections,” he questioned as he criticised Punjab’s interim Home Minister Shaukat Javed earlier statement that he would “personally monitor” the process of removing the name of those who have been “wrongly included” in the Fourth Schedule.
Senator Rabbani lamented that two major political parties—PPP and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz— were being targeted which the ECP has “failed” to notice and questioned “is the ECP sleeping?”
He was referring to stoppage of Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s convoy at various points, as well as an incident of stone pelting at a meeting held by former prime minister and PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
Bringing up the arrests of PML-N leaders and workers who canvassed in various parts of the country to welcome convicted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the PPP stalwart wondered, “Is the ECP blind to the arrest of the party leaders. Did the ECP question the government about this?” he wondered.
Rabbani also questioned the curbs placed on some media houses and disruptions of the circulation of certain newspapers besides instructions [from certain quarters] to television channels not to broadcast ‘undesirable’ programmes.
Taking a jibe at state institutions for their “impartiality”, the former chairman criticised the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for summoning election candidates and interrupting their campaigns.
“Candidates are being told to abandon their election campaigns and come sit themselves down at the National Accountability Bureau’s office,” he said.
Such practices in the lead up to the polls have made the caretaker government biased and the ECP’s silence tells a story entirely different. “It seems as though the instructions are coming from somewhere else,” he said, adding the contrast between the statement of the ECP and the caretaker setup has intensified doubts on the transparency of the polls.
Senate’s Leader of the Opposition Sherry Rehman also criticised the Punjab home minister for saying that he would remove certain names from the Fourth Schedule, and demanded his resignation.
“We won’t be able to breathe if these people enter the parliament,” she said, adding that “will we have to apologise for being open-minded?”
The PPP leader also rejected rumours that her party was supporting former military dictator Ziaul Haq’s son.
RASHEED LAMBASTES PUNJAB CM:
PML-N Senator Pervaiz Rasheed criticised Punjab Caretaker Chief Minister Hasan Askari Rizvi for allegedly making a statement in the favour of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
In a statement published on Indian news website Firstpost, Askari predicted that the PTI would gain more seats in the upcoming elections while the number of seats won by PML-N will decline.
However, Askari had stopped short of predicting which party will win the elections.
“One thing is clear that PTI seats will increase and PML-N’s seats will decrease, but by how many, we can’t say at this stage,” he was quoted as saying.
“If this is right, the Senate should ask him to resign,” Senator Rasheed said while referring to the statement.
PML-N Senator Sadia Abbasi said that the CEC should take notice of the reported statement made by the caretaker chief minister. Subsequently, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani asked the senators to provide the copy of the report to the Senate secretariat to be sent to the ECP.
PML-N’s Rasheed also questioned the impartiality of the state institutions, especially NAB and judiciary. He said PML-N candidates are being summoned by courts, PTI leaders are being granted exemption.
NAB’s KP chapter and an anti-terrorism court gave an exemption to Imran Khan, while PML-N’s nominee for NA-60 Hanif Abbasi has not been meted out the same treatment.
Hanif Abbasi, who is contesting from the NA-60 constituency in Rawalpindi, is named in an ephedrine quota case.
The party’s candidate in NA-54 (Islamabad-III), Anjum Aqeel Khan was given a notice by NAB four days before the elections.
He said the Senate chief and CEC must be summoned before the Senate to explain why some were getting special treatment while others were being treated as “step sons”.
The PML-N leader said that terrorists were being transformed into parliamentarians and vice versa, he said in a reference to imprisonment of ex-PM Nawaz Sharif and inclusion of “banned outfits” in the electoral politics.
“Right now we are on the grey list,” he said, reminding the Senate of the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) decision last month to place Pakistan on its so-called ‘grey list’ for money laundering and terror financing. “What will we gain for Pakistan from the world?”
NO INTERNET IN BALOCHISTAN:
National Party Senator Ashok Kumar told the Senate that internet access in some areas of Balochistan had been cut off, disrupting communication in the province.
“Everyone knows what kind of elections will take place in Balochistan,” he said, adding, “If election results had already been decided, elected politicians should be told to go home.”
Following Kumar’s complaint, Sanjrani ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to restore internet services in Balochistan.