Govt won’t move ECP to challenge result: Qureshi

Published March 4, 2021
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, along with some cabinet members, addressing a press conference here on Wednesday.—Tanveer Shahzad/White Star
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, along with some cabinet members, addressing a press conference here on Wednesday.—Tanveer Shahzad/White Star

ISLAMABAD: Despite facing an unexpected defeat on the key Senate seat from the federal capital, the government on Wednesday decided not to challenge the result before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The decision was announced by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi while addressing a joint press conference along with over a dozen cabinet members.

The press conference was hurriedly called after the vote count indicating opposition candidate Yousuf Raza Gilani’s victory against Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh.

Asked if the government would challenge the result of the Senate seat from Islamabad, FM Qureshi replied in the negative and said: “We are a political party. We will contest it in a political way and will go to the people of the country and ask them that it is a defining moment to choose to which way they want to go — either to continue the past and previous sale purchase of votes or to reject those who are involved in the filthy business.”

Cabinet members blame commission for failing to ensure fair polls

Earlier, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill shortly after the result was out tweeted that the government would challenge the result.

The PTI team at the press conference tried to put all the blame of what it called “sale of votes in the senate polls” on the ECP and that it happened because the ECP did not entertain the government’s request of using latest technology to ensure transparency and fair play in the polls.

Mr Qureshi said the government had knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court and filed a reference to ask if the Senate poll could be conducted through open ballot and the apex court while ruling for secret ballot also directed the ECP to hold Senate election by ensuring complete transparency and fair play. “However, the ECP remained failed to hold the elections in a transparent manner and people used money to win Senate seats,” he added.

“How it is possible that our women candidate from Islamabad wins her seat with 174 votes (from National Assembly) while Hafeez Shaikh loses his seat from Islamabad in a similar election from the same electoral college,” he added.

He said he knew Mr Gilani quite well and that he agreed to contest the polls on “some assurance of his victory” despite having less numbers in the National Assembly.

The foreign minister said two main opposition parties —Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)— had already vowed in the Charter of Democracy (COD) signed in 2006 to bring to an end to horse trading and use of money in the Senate polls, but both parties blocked a legislation proposed by the ruling PTI in the National Assembly compelling the president to promulgate an ordinance to hold Senate polls through open vote after seeking guidance from the Supreme Court. “If the Election Commission had accepted our request and used technology to check controversial votes, nobody could have used money in the polls,” he alleged, reiterating that the ECP had failed to fulfill its responsibility.

Mr Qureshi also referred to a video leak in which Mr Gilani’s son, Ali Gilani, was seen advising some PTI MNAs how to cancel their votes if they want to favour his father in the election. He said the video proved that the opposition was involved in purchase of votes.

Asked if some PTI MNAs had been unhappy with Prime Minister Khan and that why the PM remained failed to appease them during his two-day stay in the parliament house, Mr Qureshi said: “If any PTI MNA was annoyed with the PM, then why they voted for the woman candidate from Islamabad. The fact is that money was used,” he said.

He said the PTI had decided to take strict action against those party MNAs who had been involved in horse-trading in previous election. “We had removed 22 MPAs of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from the party and will do it again once the names of those involved in the latest polls are ascertained,” he added.

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2021

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