ISLAMABAD: Surfacing on Tuesday of a video clip showing Ali Haider Gilani, the son of the opposition’s joint candidate for a Senate seat Yousuf Raza Gilani, telling some unidentified Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers about techniques of wasting their votes added to the existing hype over the Senate election taking place on Wednesday (today).

Hours after the video clip was posted on the official Twitter account of the ruling PTI and went viral on main and social media, Ali Haider held a news conference with Pakistan Peoples Party information secretary Shazia Marri and confirmed the authenticity of the video clip, saying he had done nothing wrong and his conscience was clear.

The video came to the surface hours before a gathering of the leaders and members of the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) at a dinner hosted by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for them and the party legislators at a five-star hotel. The dinner was also attended by leader of opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz.

Talking briefly to the reporters while going to the dinner, Mr Bhutto-Zardari and Yousuf Raza Gilani defended the act of the younger Gilani, saying that asking for votes from every constituent was their democratic right and urged the ruling party to take care of its own members.

Ali Haider appears to be telling unidentified lawmakers of ruling party how to get their votes rejected

Yousuf Raza said that he had even written a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, asking him to vote for him.

On the other hand, the PTI, while terming the leaked video clip “shameful”, asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to take notice of it and called for disqualification of Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Meanwhile, PTI MNAs Farrukh Habib and Kanwal Shauzab filed a petition before the ECP seeking Mr Gilani’s disqualification after a spokesman for the commission had already announced that they would “investigate the matter on merit.”

Disclosing the details about the viral video clip, Ali Haider claimed that the PTI MNAs, who had sought a meeting with him, had told him that they did not want to vote for their party’s candidate Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and wanted to vote for his father.

Ali Haider said the PTI lawmakers asked him as to what should they do if they got a “marked and identifiable ballot paper” and were forced to vote against their conscience. Only then he told them about the method of wasting their vote by putting a cross in front of the names of both the candidates on the ballot paper. In this way, he said, the vote would not go in favour of either of the two candidates.

“My conversation is in front of you,” he said, adding that the PTI lawmakers told him that they did not want to vote for Mr Shaikh as he had not provided them even an opportunity to have a meeting with them and that they had respect for his father Yousuf Raza.

“I am the son of a candidate and it is my right to seek vote (for my father),” Ali Haider added.

Refusing to disclose the names of the PTI lawmakers, he said these MNAs were his friends and they had had many meetings in the past as well. He claimed that he had been in contact with “more than one, two or three PTI members, declaring that he would continue to meet them in future.

Refuting the charges of vote buying, he challenged the ministers to prove their allegations. In the video, he said, they had not been shown talking about money. He said the PPP and the Gilani family had always got “votes of conscience” and had never been involved in selling and buying of votes.

On the other hand, he said, Prime Minister Imran Khan had told the members in the PTI parliamentary party meeting that every lawmaker would get Rs500 million as development fund. He asked the ECP to take notice of the announcement by the prime minister only days before the Senate elections.

“I have met many people. All the members of the assembly are respectable and our constituents. Seeking their vote is our duty,” Ali Haider said.

Meanwhile, talking to reporters, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the PDM had already won the Senate election and “tomorrow we will only get a bonus.”

He alleged that the PTI government had failed to resolve the issues being faced by the masses. He said the PTI could not even resolve the problems of its own members and coalition partners. He said the PTI was making every effort to control its members.

“We are only seeking votes. The PPP has always contested the election democratically,” he said, alleging that it was the government which was using money in the Senate poll.

“For the first time, the puppet government is perturbed because its government is about to go,” he said.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the prime minister had openly said in PTI parliamentary party meeting that every member would get Rs500m. He said when the issue was taken up by the Supreme Court, instead of Imran Khan, the judge was punished for asking the question from the government.

The PPP chairman said he did not know as to why the government was panicky when it had the numbers in the parliament.

Earlier, federal Minister for Science and Technology, Fawad Chaudhry and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill during their separate news conferences asked the ECP to initiate an investigation into the leaked video and disqualify Yousuf Raza Gilani from contesting the election.

When asked to disclose the names of the PTI MNAs who were in conversation with Ali Haider in the video, Mr Gill said everything would be made public soon. He said these lawmakers should be provided security as their lives were under threat.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2021

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