ISLAMABAD: Taking notice of reports in the media about alleged horse-trading in last week’s Senate elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday summoned those politicians who had raised questions over the fairness of the exercise to appear before it on March 14 with evidence to prove their claims.

Several political parties, including the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), are accusing each other of resorting to horse-trading and purchasing votes in the March 3 Senate polls and have called for an investigation into the matter by the ECP and courts and action against those who had indulged in such a practice which, according to them, has brought a bad name to the politicians and democratic institutions.

The ECP has issued notices to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan, Minister of State for Information Marri­yum Aurangzeb, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Political Affairs Engineer Amir Muqam, leaders of two factions of the Muttahida Qaumi Move­ment-Pakistan (MQM-P) Dr Farooq Sattar and Khawaja Izharul Hassan, Pak Sarza­meen Party’s (PSP) Raza Haroon, MNA from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas Shahabuddin and PML-N MPA from Punjab Uzma Bokhari.

ECP summons eight for alleging votes were purchased in March 3 Senate poll; PTI slams move

Almost all these parties are pointing fingers at the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), alleging that the party at the behest of Asif Zardari resorted to “worst kind” of horse-trading, especially in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan assemblies.

But interestingly, the ECP has not summoned anyone from the PPP.

The parties are criticising the PPP for what they call playing “a dirty role” in Balochistan and KP. In Balochistan, the PPP does not have a single MPA, but it now claims that the candidates backed by the party have won in the province. Similarly, questions are being raised over the return of two PPP candidates from the KP assembly where the party has only seven MPAs.

When asked why no one from the PPP had been summoned, ECP spokesman Haroon Shinwari explained that the commission had in the first place summoned those political leaders whose statements appeared in the media in which they had alleged the use of money in the Senate elections. In the next stage, he said, those parties would be summoned against whom allegations were being levelled.

The spokesman explai­ned that the ECP had taken this action because it wanted the politicians to assist it in identifying those who had ind­ulged in undemocratic practices during the Senate polls.

Political and legal experts, however, believe that the ECP exercise will bear no fruit as it will be difficult for the accusers to prove their allegations, particularly regarding the purchase of votes.

PTI information secretary Fawad Chaudhry criticised the ECP move and said that it was strange that instead of holding investigations, the commission was asking them to bring the evidence. He said it was a responsibility of the ECP to see how those candidates had managed to win the elections whose parties had no representation in the assemblies.

Mr Chaudhry said the PTI had already conducted an internal inquiry and placed 16 of its MPAs in “grey list”. He said that now the KP government would ask the provincial anti-corruption department to hold investigation against these MPAs. He said the party would provide the names to investigation agencies, and not to the media.

Earlier, speaking at a news conference, Mr Chaudhry had announced that the PTI would introduce an amendment to the Constitution in parliament to change the mode of Senate elections in order to make them fair and transparent.

PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif had blamed the political parties that secured more seats than their proportional representation in the provincial assemblies for “rigging the Senate elections” and demanded an investigation to ascertain if the change of loyalty was based on change of mind, financial gain or some other factors.

Despite the fact that the PML-N emerged as the largest party in the election for the upper house of parliament, the former prime minister said the game of trading of votes must come to an end.

The same demand was made by PTI chief Imran Khan at a news conference in Karachi on Monday. He said that according to his information votes were purchased for up to Rs40 million in the Senate elections. He admitted that his party lawmakers had also “sold themselves”.

Mr Khan said the PTI had been asking the ECP to replace the old secret ballot system with open voting to check corrupt practices, but the ECP did not accept the demand. He had asked Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar take notice of the horse-trading, explaining that those who had bribed the lawmakers were known but the legislators who had allegedly taken bribe to switch loyalty were not traceable.

The MQM-Pakistan, which suffered a major setback in the election, announced that it would challenge the Senate polls in the ECP and courts, accusing the PPP and PSP of “harassing” the party lawmakers and “selling” the mandate of Karachi.

Addressing a press conference, Dr Farooq Sattar, who heads the PIB group of the MQM-P, had said the Senate elections lost credibility as they were not held impartially and transparently.

“Our investigation shows that our more than 15 MPAs were harassed to change their loyalty. We are also doing our homework to take action against those MPAs who cast their votes against the policy and we have already sent notices to six of them,” Dr Sattar said.

Similarly, raising questions over the victory of PTI’s Chaudhry Sarwar from Punjab, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Amir Muqam had accused the PTI of resorting to horse-trading and using money to purchase votes. They said Imran Khan had been making a hue and cry over rigging in the elections but was silent on the victory of his own man in Punjab.

The PML-N leaders had asked Mr Khan to explain how Chaudhry Sarwar managed to get 44 votes in the Punjab Assembly where his party only had 30 MPAs.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2018

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