ISLAMABAD: Observing that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had been blackmailed into suspending implementation on the PM’s ‘Kissan Package’, Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed said on Thursday that the government would appeal the commission’s decision.

“The ECP’s decision has no moral or legal justification and it was forced at ‘gun-point’ to suspend relief measures for small farmers by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief. The judgment has been pronounced under the fear of abuses and threats,” he claimed at a press conference held at Punjab House.

Flanked by Information Secretary Mohammad Azam and Principal Information Officer Rao Tehseen, Mr Rasheed said it was Imran Khan’s threats of a sit-in outside ECP headquarters that forced the commission to pronounce this decision.

However, an ECP statement issued on Thursday dispelled the impression that the decision was taken on the demand of a specific political party.

“This impression is totally fallacious as the decision to partially stop the package has been taken upon media reports and dozens of complaints received by the commission directly in this regard,” the statement said.

When his attention was drawn towards Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s remarks, where he said the ECP verdict would be honoured, he said that honouring a verdict and agreeing with it were two separate things. “I respect the order, but still disagree with it,” he remarked.

The minister said that the PTI chief had addressed three farmers’ conventions in Punjab, where he had demanded relief measures for farmers. He said the same demand had been made by members of both the houses of the parliament, as well as farmers’ representative organisations, prompting the PM to promise help for small farmers.

He said the package was not meant for a specific constituency, but was to be given to farmers across the country, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, where local government elections had already taken place.

He was of the view that it would be too late if the relief was delayed until Dec 3, as cultivated land would be “transformed into graveyards” by then.

He also wondered whether the ECP would also stop the government from reducing fuel prices and giving subsidies on electricity and flour prices. “If this relief is going to influence the polls, how will its suspension not influence them,” he asked.

He said that besides seeking legal recourse, the government will fight the case of small farmers in both houses of parliament. “We will try to remove the obstacles to the provision of relief to small farmers through legal and democratic means, and if at all these efforts fail, the farmers will have the cash grant in their pockets on the night between Dec 3 and 4,” he said.

Mr Rasheed said that rice and cotton growers had been given relief last year as well. Farmers were in dire need of relief this time around, as both crops were not economically viable due to a decline in their price on the international market.

He said the small farmers possessing up to 12.5 acres of land had to borrow money for seeds and fertiliser, adding that if their crop was affected due to weather conditions or other factors, they would be shackled by loan repayments if the government did not lend a helping hand.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2015

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