LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday lashed out at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) allegedly for not providing his party a level playing field in the campaign for the NA-120 by-election.

Several PTI leaders, including Dr Yasmin Rashid, the PTI’s candidate for the by-poll, joined Mr Qureshi at a press conference to raise the issue of violations of the ECP’s code of conduct by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the commission’s failure to establish its writ.

Mr Qureshi said they had filed several petitions in the ECP, but no action had been taken. In some cases, he added, the Election Commission’s role had been perfunctory.

Explaining the PTI’s objections to the way the by-election is being held, Mr Qureshi said there were around 29,000 people on the voters list whose corresponding records were not in the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra). He demanded that the voters be verified or removed from the list. “The PTI’s top leadership will also approach the ECP in Islamabad to settle the issue of the 29,000 votes,” he said.

Opposition leaders complain about ‘blatant code violations, unfair treatment’

The PML-N was openly violating the code of conduct, he alleged and said that all contractors in the city had been diverted to NA-120 for development work.

Mr Qureshi said the former prime minister’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, had every right to run the election campaign for her mother, but she had been given “box security” as any union council, she was present in, was entirely sealed. “Why was she being accorded VVIP protocol by the Punjab police?” he asked.

The Punjab Horticulture Authority (PHA) had been removing PTI’s panaflexes and banners, even though the party had paid the required fees, he alleged. On the other hand, PHA workers had been putting up the banners of the PML-N’s candidate without charging any fees at all, he said.

Mr Qureshi said the Pashtun community of UC-50 and UC-51 comprised the majority of the population, and they supported the PTI; however, the interior ministry had blocked their identity cards. “These Pashtuns have valid identity cards which are reflected in the voters’ list, but they cannot cast their votes,” he said, commenting on how this was not a level playing field for the PTI.

He said the votes of members of the same family were registered at different polling centres in NA-120. “This will drastically lower the turnout in the election,” he said.

The PTI vice chairman said Dr Rashid was the true face of the PTI’s ideology of change as she had carved her space by swimming against the tide. He said he had wanted to run her campaign, but the ECP had not allowed any party leaders to visit the constituency. However, he said, minister Bilal Yasin and police officials were actively campaigning for Kulsoom Nawaz. “Who will implement the code of conduct in case of the PML-N’s election campaign?” he asked.

Regarding the Multan Metro Bus case, Mr Qureshi said the project was a total failure and many of its allocated buses had been transferred to the Lahore Metro Bus. He said the project was incomplete as several stations were yet to be constructed and many escalators were non-functional.

He said that Multan had not needed a rapid bus transit project as even several PML-N legislators had asked for the project to be dropped in favour of projects to improve sewerage and provide access to safe drinking water. However, he added, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had said that only his death could stop the project.

Answering a question about an Anti-Terrorism Court’s verdict in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case, Mr Qureshi said the case had taken 10 years to complete its course, including five years during the Pakistan Peoples Party’s government. He said the accused still had the right to appeal and declined further comment on the verdict.

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2017

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