PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz on Thursday said that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will decide the schedule for the upcoming Senate elections, not Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Speaking to the media in Lahore, she said: "You can hold the Senate elections one month before or one month later [but] you can't save your government."
Maryam's statement follows the government's decision to hold elections in February and invoke the advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court on open voting for the polls. The elections are to be held for 52 seats of the upper house because as many members of the 104-member Senate will retire on March 11.
"What I don't understand is that if the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) makes no difference to you [...] what is the emergency behind announcing elections one month early. Something which has not happened before in the country's history," the PML-N vice president said.
She stated that from the government's actions, it was clear it has understood that its days are now numbered. "Whatever tactics you use, you will have to go home."
Maryam also accused the premier of "destroying" national institutions by "dragging them into politics".
She said that the schedule for all elections were decided by the ECP. "All decisions are made by the ECP, no prime minister can do this. In what capacity did you announce the decision to hold Senate elections one month earlier?
"Did you not consult the Constitution of Pakistan? Did no one from your army of advisers tell you that this is the job of the ECP? Or have you taken it upon yourself to ruin the state of the Constitution and national institutions?"
She added that the premier has also "suddenly remembered" his preferred way of holding the Senate polls which is the show of hands method. Information Minister Shibli Faraz had earlier said the government would approach the Supreme Court to seek its guidance regarding holding the Senate polls through show of hands.
"Why are you making the apex court controversial?" she asked.
Maryam maintained that she was not against the show of hands method but claimed that the government's motives behind doing so were not transparent. She added that the government had taken "full advantage" of secret ballot in the past but was now against it when it can see itself on its way out.
"There needs to be a Constitutional amendment. This can't be bulldozed through an ordinance. It is the job of the Parliament, the SC can only interpret but it can't make a new law."
"You can't use the Constitution for your personal gain," she said. Maryam also appealed to the ECP chairman to play his role.
Responding to a question from a reporter, Maryam said that the opposition will not sit silently while the government announces by-elections. "You can't hold a by-election on 500 seats."
"If the PDM resigns, which we will, then you can't hold an election," she said. She added that pictures of the premier playing with his dogs that were released as the opposition alliance held a public meeting in Lahore showed the government's "fear".
"The pictures showed a glimpse of your fear," she said, adding that it was one thing to "play with dogs" and entirely another to play with the country's national institutions. You will have to pay for doing the latter, she said.