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PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif talking to reporters after meeting with party supremo Nawaz Sharif at Adiala jail.—Online
PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif talking to reporters after meeting with party supremo Nawaz Sharif at Adiala jail.—Online

RAWALPINDI: The next National Assembly may witness rumpus during its very first session as Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif announced on Thursday that the party’s MNAs would raise the demand for investigation into what he described as poll rigging after taking the oath as members of parliament.

Referring to speculation about the embattled PML-N leadership’s desire to seek a deal to secure release of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his brother said that “neither does anyone want NRO nor is anyone giving it.”

Accompanied by his son Hamza Shahbaz, former Punjab minister Rana Sanaullah and PML-N spokesperson Marriyam Aurganzeb, Shahbaz Sharif was speaking to media persons outside the Adiala jail after meeting PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif.

Rejecting speculation about deal to secure Nawaz’s release, PML-N chief says NRO is neither being sought nor being offered

He said: “We are going to parliament not to congratulate the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), but to raise our demand for investigation into poll rigging soon after oath-taking,”

Mr Sharif termed July 25 elections “the most rigged one in the history of Pakistan” and demanded formation of a parliamentary commission to investigate “rigging in the voting process”.

“All opposition parties — including those who won or lost the elections — gathered outside the Election Commission of Pakistan [office] and staged a protest demanding formation of a commission to probe poll rigging,” he said in reference to the demonstration held on Wednesday.

The former chief minister of Punjab said that there was a dire need to investigate the faulty Result Transmission System (RTS) and why polling agents were “kicked out of polling stations”.

He said that opposition parties including the PML-N asked for formation of a parliamentary commission for probing rigging in the polls “The commission must comprise members of all parliamentary political parties,” he added.

Mr Sharif said that not only rigging was done on polling day but pre-poll rigging had also been reported from various areas. He said that winners and losers of the elections were surprised (over the results) and protesting together against the rigging. “Voices are being raised not only inside the country but the electronic and print media of other countries are also putting a question mark over the impartiality of the elections,” he said.

The PML-N leader said that the parliamentary commission would find out why the RTS developed fault and why polling agents were not allowed to stay inside polling stations during vote counting. It should also be investigated why the vote casting process was slow.

Asked whether any negotiation was under way to seek release of Nawaz Sharif, he rejected the rumours that they were seeking a deal for the release of the ousted prime minister.

Shahbaz Sharif, however, said that negotiations were the part of a democratic way to find solution of problems. “Can problems be solved without discussion or negotiation?” he asked.

He alleged that PML-N leadership and workers were victimised before elections by implicating them in cases under charges of terrorism. “Tens of thousands of workers of PML-N were sent to jail.”

He said that all detainees of the Sharif family were in high spirits and would not move back even an inch from their narrative.

He said that Nawaz Sharif did not want to introduce the politics of chaos and unrest but that of raising voice against injustice and rigging.

To a question about his absence from the opposition parties’ joint protest outside ECP office in Islamabad, Mr Sharif clarified that he could not attend the first protest of the opposition due to flight cancellation caused by bad weather. “Let the people say what they want but I am telling you clearly that there is no reason but the bad weather which stopped me from participating in the protest,” he said, adding that it was not the first protest but the opposition parties would continue agitation against rigging.

Replying to another query about formation of government in Punjab, he without naming PTI leader Jahangir Tareen alleged that some people “keep moving in a plane with sacks filled with currency notes to buy politicians across the country”.

“Neither me nor the PML-N will set up a political market to buy loyalties of winning candidates as it will be tantamount to blackening one’s face,” he said.

He said that Nawaz Sharif had rendered a big sacrifice for the nation by returning from the United Kingdom and landing in jail as he wanted to restore respect of ballot paper. “We all are united under the wise leadership of Nawaz Sharif and there is no division in the party. Our narrative is to give respect to the vote,” he said.

He said that the former premier had conveyed a special regard for the nation with a request for special prayers for him and his family during this hard time. “Nawaz Sharif will not bow before anyone. He has one thing in his mind and that is the stability and integrity of Pakistan,” he said. Shahbaz Sharif said that he had also met Hanif Abbasi who had been sent to jail just four days before polling in the ephedrine case.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2018