GUJRAT: The PML-N candidate has expressed apprehensions that the PTI government wants to get the NA-75 Daska repoll postponed by portraying the situation there as tense so that it can complete uplift schemes in the constituency to influence the voters.

Nosheen Iftikhar, the PML-N candidate for the by-election, told Dawn about her plan to submit an application with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday (today) to ensure the holding of by-poll as per schedule and to take necessary measures for free and fair polling to rebuild confidence of the voters. Otherwise in an atmosphere of fear created by the PTI, she apprehended, the voters might not come out of their homes to cast votes.

The Home Department has already requested the ECP to hold the by-poll after Ramazan due to the ‘prevailing tense situation’ in the constituency, which can affect the voters’ turnout. It says normalcy is yet to return to the area after the violence on the polling day on Feb 19. The ECP had earlier announced to hold the repoll on March 18; however, it later had extended the date to April 10. Now the Punjab government is of the view that the recently appointed administrative officers require some time to normalize the situation for peaceful holding of the repoll.

On the other hand, a Supreme Court bench will again hear the petition of the PTI candidate Ali Asjad Malhi against the ECP’s decision to hold the repoll today (Friday).

Nosheen Iftikhar, the daughter of deceased MNA Syed Iftikharul Hassan alias Zahry Shah after whose death the seat was vacated, said it was already more than eight months since the people of Daska lost their representative and they were not having a representation in the National Assembly. She said earlier the by-poll was not held on the pretext of the Covid-19 and now the government was again trying to deprive the people of their right of representation on one pretext or the other.

“If Chief Minister Usman Buzdar is not capable of holding a peaceful election, he should resign by accepting his inability,” she said and added that the PTI and its government earlier did not accept the violent incidents of Feb 19 but now they were saying that the situation in the constituency was not normal, which showed contradiction.

Ms Iftikhar said the officers of police and administration had been removed under punitive action for their inability to hold free and fair by-election but the main culprits, who had issued them directions, had not yet been touched.

“I want to know which institution of Pakistan one has to approach to get a legal action done against the elements behind that violence and rigging in Daska,” she said.

Official sources said the ECP had already sought the deployment of the Rangers for the repoll in NA-75.

Ali Asjad Malhi said he did not want the repolling delayed for any reason but the spike in the Covid-19 cases might cause an extension in the date of the repoll. He claimed that he would win the repoll with a double margin compared to his earlier lead of votes against the PML-N candidate.

Asked if there was any chance of violence in Daska on April 10, Mr Malhi blamed the PML N of bringing its ‘Gullu Butts’ from the entire central Punjab who had disrupted the peaceful atmosphere earlier and such elements should now be curtailed to avoid any bad situation again. He claimed that the PTI was not involved in violence.

Meanwhile, the election-related activities in Daska could not get a momentum so far as both the main rival parties are waiting for the SC decision on the petition of Mr Malhi.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2021

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