• Plans boycott of oath by elected candidates as PML-N seeks time to extend support
• PPP, MQM-P skip opposition parties meeting
ISLAMABAD: Rejecting the results of the July 25 general election, the multi-party conference on Friday evening announced that a joint protest movement would be launched against rigging and massive irregularities in the polls and demanded transparent re-election.
Although the parties attending the meeting decided that their elected representatives would not take the oath in protest against the alleged irregularities, president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which is a major stakeholder, said he would discuss the move with the central executive committee of his party on Sunday before announcing a final decision.
The conference, which was chaired by PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif and MMA president Maulana Fazlur Rehman, was attended by leaders of various parties at the Islamabad residence of MMA leader Mian Aslam.
No leader from the Pakistan Peoples Party, which has voiced concern over the alleged irregularities, attended the conference. However, Maulana Rehman said he was in contact with the PPP leaders.
At an internal meeting held earlier in the day, the PPP leadership decided not to attend the conference, with a spokesperson saying the party would devise its own strategy on the issue.
Prominent among those who attended the conference were Asfandyar Wali Khan of the Awami National Party, Sirajul Haq of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Mehmood Khan Achakzai of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Hasil Bizenjo of the National Party, Mustafa Kamal of the Pak Sarzameen Party, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao of the Qaumi Watan Party, Owais Noorani of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Raja Zafarul Haq, Khurram Dastagir and Raza Haroon.
Farooq Sattar of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement was also present but other leaders of his party said they had boycotted the event.
The conference was held a day after Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan offered to facilitate investigations into the charges of election rigging.
At a press briefing following the meeting, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said: “We don’t accept the results of the July 25 general election as the mandate of the public; we believe that the public mandate has been stolen. This is the reason we also don’t accept the claim of those who say they have managed to win majority of seats. We won’t accept their right to rule this way.
“We have a consensus over the demand for re-election in the fairest manner. The parties which attended the meeting have also agreed that their elected candidates wouldn’t take the oath, though Shahbaz Sharif has said he would discuss the matter with other leaders of his party tomorrow before taking this decision.
“We will launch a movement and stage protests to demand re-election. For this purpose, a committee will be constituted immediately. It will chalk out a detailed plan of protests, and to mobilise workers. We will complete the consultation process within the next two days to bring the nation on one platform.
“We have given sacrifices for democracy. We will not allow the establishment to hold this democracy hostage. We will fight for the independence of democracy. The forces which believe that they can control everything should know that they have nothing in their hand but the nation had all the rights and they will decide. Political parties will guide them.
“In the parliament, we gave the responsibility of holding fair elections to the Election Commission of Pakistan. We granted Rs2 billion to the ECP for this election. Why did the ECP waste all this money of the nation? Why did the ECP failed to have [effective] control over results? Their presiding officers, returning officers and deputy returning officers were held hostage by army troops. The result of vote count was not provided to our polling agents at polling stations. On these grounds, we will launch a campaign for the restoration of democracy and to strengthen it further. We will not allow those claiming victory to enter the parliament.”
In reply to a question, Maulana Rehman said: “In 1977, too, candidates were elected but when the results were rejected by everyone, our point of view became clear.”
Mr Sharif on the occasion said: “I will discuss the matter related to oath-taking with my party’s central executive committee. I will inform other parties of the PML-N decision on Sunday. However, all the parties which have participated in the meeting from across the country have consensus on the decision to launch a protest movement. The irregularities seen in this election had not precedence.
“We will announce further course of action within the next few days,” said Mr Sharif.
At a meeting on Thursday the PML leaders had rejected the poll results, but decided that they would join the national and provincial assemblies and take oath as MNAs and MPAs.
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2018