ISLAMABAD: Rejecting the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) demand to remove four members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the PML-N said on Friday that the party would contest the by-elections on three recently-vacated seats of the National Assembly in Punjab.
The PML-N added that it would also move the Supreme Court to set the record straight.
The PML-N led government fears that the PTI may initiate another countrywide agitation campaign to secure the removal of four ECP members and has decided to block every move aimed at destabilising the government.
“The demand to remove four members of the election commission is tantamount to sabotaging local government elections in Punjab and other provinces. We cannot accept it,” said PML-N leader Daniyal Aziz at a joint press conference.
He added that the Punjab government had announced the schedule for local government (LG) polls and if any member of the ECP was removed, it would sabotage the entire LG election process.
The PTI chairman Imran Khan has shown complete mistrust in all members of the ECP except the chief election commissioner (retd) Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan. The PTI chief recently called for removal of four ECP members before by-elections for NA-122 (which was won by Sardar Ayaz Sadiq), NA-125 (of Khawaja Saad Rafiq) and NA-154 (of Siddique Baloch).
Mr Aziz said the PTI chief sought removal of ECP members who conducted the LG elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in May, cantonment elections throughout Pakistan in April and 36 by-elections on national and provincial assemblies’ seats. “Why did Imran Khan not question the credibility of these members when they conducted these elections?” asked Mr Aziz.
He claimed that the KP government was involved in corruption worth billions of rupees. “Under the [hydel] project, the KP government had to install 3,260MW hydel power facility, but only a 19MW plant has been set up so far,” he said.
Federal Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir, who was also present at the press conference, told Dawn that the government hoped the PPP would not field its candidate in the by-election in NA-122.
Regarding the PTI’s demand to remove ECP members, he said the party should follow the right and constitutional way to meet its demands instead of maligning the institutions.
Privatisation Commission Chairman Mohammad Zubair said the PTI should take its case to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) to get the ECP members removed. He, however, added: “Imran Khan will not be able to provide credible evidences against these members to substantiate his demand.”
Another PML-N leader Maiza Hameed claimed that the PTI government in KP had failed to deliver and only 23 per cent of last year’s development budget was utilised while the rest of the money was returned to the centre.
The status of the former railway minister, Khawaja Saad Rafiq, vis-a-vis contesting in the by-elections is still uncertain as he has not withdrawn his petition from the SC.
“Khawaja Saad Rafiq is not in the country these days and a decision to contest the polls or not will be taken by him after he returns,” said the information minister.
He said in case Mr Rafiq was asked by the party to take part in the elections, he would have to withdraw his case from the apex court.Mr Aziz, however, said that even if Mr Rafiq withdrew his petition it would be up to the SC to allow him to contest the polls or not. “Once the case is filed in the court, it becomes the court’s property and now the court will decide whether he can contest the elections or not,” he said.
PM-AYAZ SADIQ MEETING: Mr Sadiq, who was recently removed as speaker of the National Assembly when his victory in NA-122 was voided by an election tribunal, called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to discuss political matters in the backdrop of the PML-N’s strategy for the coming by-elections.
A press release issued from the PM’s office said: “The prime minister appreciated the role of Sardar Ayaz Sadiq as the speaker of the National Assembly and the grace and courage shown by him during the trial of the case in election tribunal.”
Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2015