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ISLAMABAD: A day after the elections of the Senate’s chairman and his deputy, the government and opposition on the floor of the National Assembly on Tuesday accused each other of being involved in rigging in these elections.

While members on the treasury benches alleged that the opposition parties had damaged the federation by using “money and power” in the Senate elections, the opposition members accused the government of not giving due importance to parliament.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) president Mehmood Achakzai delivered a hard-hitting speech in which he claimed that a senior army officer had manoeuvred the Senate elections in Balochistan.

Govt, opposition trade charges of dishonesty

He called for constituting a committee comprising military and civil intelligence agencies to confirm his claim, saying that he was ready to be punished if his claim was proved wrong. But, he added: “If the army officer is found guilty he should be taken to task.”

Mr Achakzai said the Senate elections had ignited a war between democratic and non-democratic forces in the country, adding that “I will always stand by democratic forces”.

Citing two controversial personalities of Islamic history, he said if the sale and purchase of votes for Senate seats was not a crime then there should be no harm in offering prayers for Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq.

In reference to the understanding between the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf on the selection of candidates for the top Senate posts, he claimed that former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani had been sacrificed only to bring these two opposition parties closer. He said he did not consider a man sincere to the country who acted against the Constitution.

The PkMAP chief said he might be killed for expressing these remarks, adding that he was not afraid of death.

“I appeal to all democratic forces in the country to unite for the war between democratic and non-democratic forces,” he said.

Syed Naveed Qamar of the PPP said there might be some flaws in the elections of the Senate chairman and his deputy, but no one could call them unconstitutional. He rejected the allegation that the Senate elections were engineered by an army officer, saying that the result of the polls was the outcome of the government’s faulty policies.

Mr Qamar said there could have been different outcome of the Senate elections had the Pakistan Muslim Leage-Nawaz (PML-N) given due importance to parliament after coming to power.

He said there was no doubt in the fact that Mr Rabbani had run the upper house of parliament in a decent and professional manner during his tenure, but the latter was criticised by the treasury members during his last days in office.

He said that instead of criticising the Senate elections, everyone should realise that the democratic process had moved ahead.

Sahibzada Tariq Ullah of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) alleged that bags full of money had been opened for legislators in Balochistan. He said parties gave tickets for Senate seats only to rich people.

Sheryar Afridi of the PTI said that those found involved in the sale and purchase of votes for Senate seats should be hanged. He said his party would support measures which could stop rigging in Senate elections. A resolution should be passed to suggest death sentence for those involved in rigging, he added.

He said a committee should be constituted to formulate guidelines for the direct elections of senators.

The PTI leader accused Maryam Nawaz, daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, of trying to persuade many legislators to vote for candidates backed by PML-N in the Senate elections.

Retired Capt Mohammad Safdar, son-in-law of Mr Sharif, demanded enactment of strict laws to prevent rigging in Senate elections. He alleged that the PPP had compromised its principles for winning the Senate elections, claiming that the party had made an underhand deal with the PTI for the purpose.

Naeema Kishwar of the JUI-F stressed the need for legislation to curb horse-trading.

The incidents of a shoe and ink being thrown at Nawaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif were strongly condemned in the house.

In their speeches, Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho of the PPP and Ali Muhammad Khan of PTI condemned the incidents.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2018