PML-N warns govt against interfering in GB elections

Updated 03 Jul 2020

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“The interest of Pakistan lies in free, fair and transparent elections in GB," says Ahsan Iqbal. — AFP/File
“The interest of Pakistan lies in free, fair and transparent elections in GB," says Ahsan Iqbal. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has warned the federal government against making any effort to rig the upcoming elections in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), saying that any such action would be against the national interest and national security of the country.

“The interest of Pakistan lies in free, fair and transparent elections in GB. Pakistan cannot afford to have any political controversy or dispute in GB which has already become a flashpoint in the region and many countries are eyeing it to get benefit,” said PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal while speaking at a news conference with party’s senior vice chairman and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb after a party meeting here on Thursday.

“I want to give message to the national institutions so that free, fair and transparent elections are held in GB. The federal government should refrain from horse-trading and interference (in the polls),” said the PML-N leader without naming any institution.

Mr Iqbal alleged that the federal government had already started pre-poll rigging in GB through “biased ministers” in the caretaker cabinet who had been appointed after interviews conducted by Prime Minister Imran Khan. He said his party had set up a special monitoring cell to keep an eye on postings and transfers being made in GB ahead of the elections.

“We will not let anyone rob the mandate of the GB people,” he declared.

Mr Iqbal said that GB had acquired great significance in the region due to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which was now a “jugular vein” for the country.

The elections on 24 general seats of the GB Legislative Assembly are scheduled to be held on Aug 18. The five-year term of the previous assembly ended on June 24, bringing an end to the five-year rule of the PML-N.

The PML-N leader said GB was a “sensitive area” and a flashpoint in the region as the enemies were looking for excuses to spoil the law and order situation. He expressed the hope that the federal government would realise the importance of the peace in the region and would not make any attempt to rig the elections.

Mr Iqbal lauded the performance of former GB chief minister Hafeezur Rahman, saying the previous PML-N government during its five-year rule restored peace and law and order as not a single incident of sectarian violence was reported from the area. Moreover, he said the PML-N government in GB had set an example for others in terms of governance and development. He said the previous GB government had successfully contained coronavirus which was evident from the fact that out of 1,400 Covid-19 patients, some 1,200 had fully recovered from it. He, however, regretted that the caretaker government had reduced the number of tests significantly and now there was a fear that the pandemic could spread rapidly.

Mr Iqbal then lashed out at the federal government’s Kashmir policy, saying that one year had passed since the annexation of occupied Kashmir to India, but the government had failed to mobilise the international community to put pressure on India to lift curfew. He said the prime minister should have talked to the US president, the UK prime minister and the heads of the countries which were permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to highlight the Indian brutalities in the held valley.

The PML-N leader said the Pakistan government was now waiting for the first anniversary of the Kashmir’s annexation on Aug 5 only to deliver speeches and cry. He said Kashmir annexation with India was similar to separation of East Pakistan in 1971 and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) was responsible for it.

Speaking on the occasion, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said despite the report of the sugar commission, the price of sugar had not come down. He alleged that the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) had purchased sugar at the rate of Rs78 per kg from the mills which were earlier even ready to sell it for Rs70 per kg. He alleged that the USC had already placed an order to purchase 6,000 tonnes of sugar which meant that the nation had been robbed again of Rs500 million.

He asked the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of the high sugar price and announce that his party had a plan to file a petition in the apex court.

Responding to a question, Mr Abbasi criticised the government’s handling of the pilots’ issue, saying that the government had defamed the PIA and the country at the international level, besides putting the jobs of hundreds of Pakistani pilots at stake.

Mr Abbasi said that in a day or two, he would hold a news conference on the issue in his capacity as a pilot himself in which he would present a solution to bring the country out of the present mess on the pilots’ issue.

In response to another query, Mr Abbasi claimed that the opposition had not talked about “minus one” formula and the prime minister had said this because of his poor performance and failures. He said that he was seeing “minus-PTI” and not “minus one” in the near future.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2020