ISLAMABAD: A Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader, Mohammad Zubair, on Friday held Prime Minister Imran Khan responsible for attempted rigging in Daska by-election.

Speaking at a press conference here, Mr Zubair said Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar was not “genius enough” to rig Daska by-poll and all responsibility lay on Imran Khan.

He said what happened in Daska was not less than a criminal offence. “There was no contact between 23 missing presiding officers and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for 13 hours,” the PML-N leader said.

He termed the decision of re-election in Daska as the beginning of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)’s ouster from power.

He said the PTI had created so much fuss to win one seat by manipulative methods and violent acts.

He also launched a verbal attack against Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh who has been fielded by the PTI as a Senate candidate from Islamabad and asked the PTI lawmakers not to vote for a person “who has no stakes in Pakistan”.

PTI lawmakers asked not to vote for Hafeez Shaikh in Senate election

“Voting for Hafeez Shaikh who has ruined the country’s economy would mean burying ideology of the PTI,” Mr Zubair remarked.

Responding to a question, he said the PTI leadership still had time to withdraw Mr Shaikh as its candidate to allow Yousuf Raza Gilani unopposed victory.

He said Mr Shaikh had been living outside the country for 40 years and he came to Pakistan only when he got an opportunity to get a flagged car.

“The old workers of PTI should raise question who is Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and from where he was brought,” he said.

He alleged that former finance minister Asad Umar and other officials who were opposing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme were removed and then Mr Shaikh was brought in. An agreement was reached with the IMF within 15 days of Mr Shaikh’s appointment as adviser on finance.

Mr Zubair said it was the gift of the IMF package secured by Mr Shaikh that the masses were suffering from the burden of price hike and economic problems.

He criticised Imran Khan for award of Senate ticket to Mr Shaikh against whom, he said, the PM himself had ordered an inquiry by constituting the debt commission. The prime minister had constituted the debt commission to conduct an inquiry into loans obtained by Pakistan from 2008 to 2013 whereas Mr Shaikh acted as finance minister in PPP tenure up to 2013.

“Imran Khan is hiding the report of the debt commission,” he alleged.

Mr Zubair said that the PML-N government had obtained Rs10,500 billion loans in five years whereas the PTI government had secured more loans in two and half years due to record financial deficit in the country’s history.

He said that Mr Shaikh would leave the country as soon as the PTI government was sent packing. “The time for the PTI government is over. It will be better for Mr Shaikh to get his seat reserved for Washington,” he remarked. He said Mr Sheikh had no commitment with the country and all his assets were abroad.

Marriyam Aurangzeb

Meanwhile, PML-N spokesperson Marriyam Aurangzeb appeared to be taking a different position as she urged the ECP to take action against Imran Khan and the Punjab chief minister, calling them the chief culprits in the theft of votes and “abduction” of ECP staff during NA-75 by elections.

In a statement, she said Mr Khan and Mr Buzdar had held the entire administration hostage, including the chief secretary and police chief of Punjab. She said without taking action against these chief perpetrators of this heinous crime, any act of accountability would be incomplete and meaningless.

“Why was the chief secretary not available at the most crucial time and why did he not get back to the election commission? The chief secretary was well aware of the ‘abduction’ of the commission’s staff and this is why he gave assurance that they would return safely,” Ms Aurangzeb said. “All circumstantial and on-ground evidence testifies that Imran Khan is the main culprit who tried to violate the sanctity of the vote and the trust of the people in electoral process. Justice would not be served unless the head of this rigging operation is not held accountable.”

She said the “product of 2018 vote theft” was caught red-handed repeating the same practice in 2021. “The chief election commissioner should not turn a blind eye to the real culprits and just like the blatant rigging, justice should be blatant and in public view against Imran Khan and Usman Buzdar,” she stressed.

She said it was imperative to find answers to questions such as when and where did Mr Khan and Mr Buzdar hatch this conspiracy and who else was involved. She said that under Article 218 of the Constitution, the ECP’s suo motu action was incomplete until the prime minister and the chief minister were indicted.

Ms Aurangzeb reminded Imran Khan of his campaign for reopening four constituencies after the 2013 general elections and said the PTI chief should be “ashamed of himself” for moving the Supreme Court against the similar demand in connection with Daska by-poll.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2021

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