ISLAMABAD: The ruling PML-N has described as clear violation of Election Commission rules the decision of PTI Chairman Imran Khan to take part in campaigns for his party’s candidates in by-elections for NA-122 (Lahore) and NA-154 (Lodhran) scheduled for Oct 11.
Addressing a press conference at the Press Information Department here on Sunday, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said the ECP restriction equally applied to all MNAs and MPAs irrespective of their political affiliations.
He said the government would adopt constitutional and legal ways to resist Mr Khan if the latter tried to hold another sit-in in the federal capital on the pretext that electioneering of PTI candidates was not being allowed.
The minister said Mr Khan should not put the Islamabad administration in further trouble given the fresh spate of terrorist attacks and the fragile security situation.
The ECP had on May 11 modified its rules and included members of the national and provincial assemblies in the list of holders of public offices. Besides the prime minister and chief ministers, the legislators were also barred from visiting constituencies and holding public meetings after the announcement of election schedules.
But at a recent press conference, the PTI chief refused to abide by the ECP rules and said there was no legal bar on him to run the campaigns of his candidates. The restriction was incomprehensible, he added.
“If Imran Khan takes part in the campaigns despite an ECP ban, by-elections will turn into a battle,” the information minister said when asked why the PML-N was worried about the PTI chief’s decision.
He said it would be quite unfair if Mr Khan was allowed to hold public meetings for PTI candidates and the ruling party was barred from doing so.
Mr Rashid recalled that before the ECP restriction, the PTI chief had addressed public meetings during by-elections in Multan and Mandi Bahauddin, but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was not allowed to do so, although he was also head of the PML-N.
“We believe that it was unjustified,” he said.
The NA-122 (Lahore) seat fell vacant on Aug 21 when the election of PML-N leader and former National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq was declared null and void by an election tribunal on a petition filed by the PTI.
Four days later, Siddique Khan Baloch, who had won the NA-154 (Lodhran) seat in the 2013 elections as an independent candidate but had later joined the PML-N, was disqualified for submitting a fake educational degree to the ECP.
The minister said Mr Khan did not obey any rule as he was a ‘de facto’ chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “All decisions of the KP government are taken in Imran Khan’s Bani Gala residence,” he said.
Mr Rashid said the PTI chief had criticised the relief package for farmers recently announced by the prime minister, but his KP government had never given any relief to farmers in Swat, Dir, Swabi, Tangi and Mardan during two years of its rule.
ATTACK ON PAF CAMP: About the recent terrorist attack on the Pakistan Air Force camp near Peshawar, the information minister claimed that security forces had found sufficient evidence that it was planned in Afghanistan. “We will soon share the evidence with the Afghan government,” he said.
“We believe that the attack has nothing to do with the Afghan government, but neighbouring countries should not allow their soils to be used against any other country.”
Mr Rashid said a mechanism/agreement was ready to be signed with Afghanistan to ensure better border security management. “We don’t want to create problems or impose restrictions on people crossing the Pak-Afghan border on a daily basis for employment or meeting relatives, but we want their screening and vigilance on their movement,” he added.
He said Pakistan was not only fighting its own war but the war of the world and had suffered more than any other country as a result. “We need more support of the international community to win this war,” he said.
Published in Dawn, September 21st , 2015