Minister seeks unconditional apology from ECP

Published September 17, 2021
A file photo of Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Zaidi. — APP/File
A file photo of Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Zaidi. — APP/File

KARACHI: Strained relations between the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) witnessed another low on Thursday when a key member of the federal cabinet sought an unconditional apology from the constitutional body for issuing him a notice which, he said, was contrary to facts about electioneering for the recent cantonment board polls in Karachi.

Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Zaidi in a letter to the district election commissioner of Karachi East also said that if the demand was not met within two weeks, he would be going to take legal action.

It all began with a show-cause notice issued to the federal minister last week by the ECP over “violation of the election code of conduct” ahead of Karachi Cantonment Board’s polls. The notice also directed the federal minister to submit his response within 48 hours. The ECP notice alleged that Mr Zaidi was running an election campaign in his constituency and violated the code of conduct by announcing a development package.

Zaidi calls notice issued to him ‘defamatory in nature’

After more than a week of the ECP notice, the federal minister came up with a strong reply and in response demanded an unconditional apology from the commission, claiming that allegations levelled against him were against the factual position and that he had visited the constituency on polling day only to cast his vote.

“The show-cause notice alleges disruption by me in the said cantonment elections, whereas my only visit to the polling station was to cast my own vote,” he said.

“The notice and its follow-up throughout news and media segments are defamatory in nature and tantamount to libel. That I am discharging my duties as minister of maritime affairs in accordance with the oath under the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 and that all actions taken by me in my capacity as minister of maritime affairs are in accordance with the law, hence any assertion to the contrary is clearly for the exclusive purpose of maligning me and my party.”

Earlier this week, federal Railways Minister and PTI’s senior vice president Azam Swati had accused the ECP of receiving bribes and always rigging polls and asserted that such institutions should be set ablaze.

As a follow-up of the tirade, the ECP had rejected all accusations levelled against it by the minister and decided to issue show-cause notices to them seeking evidence of the bribe it had allegedly received, while the government had refused to back down, with one of the two ministers asking if an “incomplete” ECP could issue such notices.

PTI leader and federal minister Ali Zaidi’s case also fueled the fire as Mr Zaidi warned of legal action against the ECP if it failed to tender an unconditional apology.

The minister made his demand public in a tweet where he also shared a letter he wrote to the ECP.

“In view of the above I hereby call upon you to tender an unconditional apology within 14 days of the date of this letter making specific reference to the letter you issued on Sept 12, 2021,” Mr Zaidi said in the letter.

“If you fail to issue an unconditional apology to me by the said date, I will be left with no choice but to exercise my legal right and file a defamation suit for damages against you,” he added.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2021

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