PDM wants ECP role in poll reforms

Published May 30, 2021
ISLAMABAD: PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman listens to Maryam Nawaz during the press conference on Saturday.
—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
ISLAMABAD: PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman listens to Maryam Nawaz during the press conference on Saturday. —Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

ISLAMABAD: Rejecting government-proposed electoral reforms, including the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs), the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to convene a meeting of the country’s political parties to seek a “consensus package” that should then be presented before parliament for approval.

“The PDM has rejected the one-sided electoral reforms package, including the ordinance promulgated by the government to secure EVMs. The PDM has expressed its reservations (over the move) and declared it a pre-poll rigging plan,” said PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman during a press briefing after presiding over a meeting of the alliance at the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Secretariat here on Saturday.

PML-N president and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif preferred to remain silent throughout the news conference.

Rejects govt-proposed move to use EVMs, calls for parliament’s joint sitting on ‘Afghan situation’; minister says no talks with PDM

“We demand that the ECP, which is constitutionally responsible for holding free and transparent elections, should convene a meeting of all political parties and present a package with national consensus so that it can be presented before the parliament,” said the Maulana while briefing reporters about the decisions taken at the PDM meeting which was also attended by PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif via video link from London. Chief of his own faction of Balochistan National Party Sardar Akhtar Mengal also attended the meeting through video link.

The government while offering dialogue to the opposition on the proposed electoral reforms had promulgated a presidential ordinance on May 8 authorising and binding the ECP to procure EVMs and to enable the overseas Pakistanis to exercise their right to vote in next general elections while staying in their country of residence. President Arif Alvi had promulgated the Elections (Second Amendment) Ordinance 2021 under Article 89 of the Constitution only two days after National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser had constituted a committee to engage the opposition on electoral reforms.

Reacting to the PDM leadership’s decisions, federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said if the opposition was serious then the government was ready to hold talks with it on the electoral reforms. The negotiations, however, he said, would be held with the parliamentary leaders of opposition parties and not the PDM which, according to him, was a mixture of “ill-assorted parties having divergent views and agendas.”

The minister said that running away from electoral reforms had exposed the contradictions within the opposition parties. He expressed surprise, saying the opposition wanted to have electoral reforms and at the same time, it did not want to talk to the government.

Parliament’s joint sitting

Expressing concern over the regional situation, the PDM president called for an “in-camera” joint sitting of the parliament for a briefing on the situation in Afghanistan. He said defence and foreign ministry officials should brief the parliament about the progress of Doha Agreement, the priorities of the new US administration and the possible impact of the agreement on the region and Pakistan.

He said there were rumours that Pakistan would provide air bases to the US and warned that such a step would have severe political implications for the country.

“Pakistan can face difficulties due to reaction of the resistance movement in Afghanistan,” Maulana Fazl said. Since these issues were sensitive in nature, therefore, there was a need for taking the parliament into confidence over it, he said.

The information minister in a statement said the government would soon make arrangements for a briefing on Afghanistan situation. As far as the issue of air bases to the US was concerned, he said, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and the Foreign Office had already issued detailed statements. He asked the opposition to focus on “constructive and positive activities” instead of holding public meetings.

Mass contact campaign

The Maulana announced that the PDM had decided to start another phase of mass contact campaign with a “huge public demonstration” in Swat on July 4. He said the PDM then would hold a public meeting in Karachi on July 29 before staging a massive show of power in Islamabad on the country’s Independence Day on August 14.

Budget session

The Maulana said the PDM had authorised Shehbaz Sharif to devise a strategy to give a tough time to the government in the parliament at the time of presentation and passage of the federal budget. He said the PML-N would host seminars on the budget.

The PDM chief also announced that they had decided to constitute a team of legal experts to take up the corruption cases being reported in the era of the incumbent government to legally challenge the “unconstitutional steps” of the government. PML-N’s Azam Nazeer Tarar has been nominated the convener of the committee whereas JUI-F Senator Kamran Murtaza will assist him as deputy convener.

Responding to questions of the reporters regarding the possibility of return of the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Awami National Party to the PDM fold, the Maulana said no discussion was held on the issue as it was not a topic on which time could be spared.

“We didn’t discuss anything in this regard. They’re not with us, that is why we didn’t focus [on them],” he said.

When PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz was asked about Nawaz Sharif’s stance over the issue, she replied: “His stance is the same as the one Maulana Sahib has expressed in front of you.”

“Don’t drag out a non-issue again and again and try to make it into something. We have said what we wanted to say about that,” she said when another reporter asked the same question.

The PDM also expressed concern over the incidents of attacks on journalists and the Maulana said the opposition leaders would visit the residences of the journalists who had recently been attacked in Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2021



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