KARACHI: Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari exchanging views with Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman during a meeting at Bilawal House on Monday.—PPI
KARACHI: Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari exchanging views with Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman during a meeting at Bilawal House on Monday.—PPI

KARACHI: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Monday made it clear that despite “controversial presidential ordinance” to hold the Senate polls through open vote, the opposition would not leave the field open for “non-democratic forces”.

At a press conference at Bilawal House, he said the PPP “would contest them at every level and every forum”, but warned the institutions that any intervention in the upcoming Senate elections could be disastrous for the country’s parliamentary system and democratic future.

“We would not let them go from any front,” he said in reply to a question about the party’s decision on the Senate elections after the government promulgated a presidential ordinance to make amendments to the Elections Act, 2017 to hold the Senate polls through open vote.

Opposition parties submit requisition for Senate session

“We would contest them at every level. We would give every democratic and legal fight to maintain the honour and respect of parliament. But let me make it very clear. If the mistakes of the 2018 general elections are repeated in this [Senate] election, we would be seeing the disastrous situation.”

He rejected the recently promulgated ordinance and alleged that Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted to “rig” the coming Senate elections and make them controversial.

The PPP chairman said a constitution amendment could not be introduced through an ordinance. He questioned the logic behind the government’s move and said that when the presidential reference was still in the Supreme Court, what was the point behind taking this step.

“It’s all being done to pressurise the opposition. There is a serious trust deficit within the ranks of the government and their allies which is pushing them to make such a move,” he said. “If the government wants to bring a constitution amendment why does it not contact political parties in the assembly to evolve a consensus on the issue? The fact is that they don’t want electoral reforms. They just want powers by any means.”

He said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government was focusing only on a short-term goal and for that it was violating every rule and democratic norms.

“And if they succeed this time again in doing what they want through all these illegal tactics, it would further strengthen narrative,” he said. “People would see themselves that how one party is allowed to bulldoze every law and make its way to gain parliamentary majority. These actions would further fan anti-government sentiments.”

Earlier, the PPP chairman held a meeting with chief of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who also heads the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDM).

A brief statement issued by Bilawal House said that the two leaders discussed the current political situation in the country and prospects of anti-government campaign of the PDM.

In Islamabad, the opposition parties on Monday submitted a requisition notice to the Senate Secretariat, asking for a session of the upper house of parliament to take up the controversial presidential ordinance seeking Senate open vote.

According to the one-point agenda attached to the requisition notice, the opposition parties want to have a debate on “the unprecedented and controversial presidential ordinance promulgated with mala fide intent that seeks to change the Senate election procedure, which is an election under the Constitution rendering the process of Senate election controversial”.

The requisition notice has been moved under Article 54(3), read with Article 61 of the Constitution, under which Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani is bound to convene the sitting within 14 days of the receipt of the notice, i.e. by Feb 22.

Amir Wasim in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2021

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