SUPPORTERS of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf hold placards as leaders address a rally against the Election Commission of Pakistan in Islamabad on Tuesday.—Mohammad Asim / White Star
SUPPORTERS of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf hold placards as leaders address a rally against the Election Commission of Pakistan in Islamabad on Tuesday.—Mohammad Asim / White Star

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Workers and supporters of the PTI, responding to the call of their party chief Imran Khan, on Tuesday staged protests outside Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) offices across the country and condemned the “biased attitude” of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja.

The coalition government had already decided not to allow anyone to protest outside ECP headquarters, which is located inside the high-security Red Zone. PTI leaders stopped their workers from going there and, instead, held a protest near the headquarters of the National Database and Registration Authority.

The Red Zone was barricaded with containers and barbed wire, with only Margalla Road open for access to Constitution Avenue.

But later, nearly five dozen activists and workers succeeded in breaking the security cordon and reached the ECP to record their protest.

CEC accused of being partial towards other parties; protesters manage to enter Red Zone in capital

Former information minister Fawad Chaudhry criticised the government for the security measures, saying that they had sealed the whole country over a token protest, so what would they do when the PTI actually took to the streets.

Former minister Shibli Faraz told reporters at the protest that their demonstration was symbolic, but a large number of people had gathered at their call.

He criticised the government for removing the names of “corrupt” individuals from the Exit Control List (ECL). Former interior minister Sheikh Rashid also reached the protest and, in a rare display of anti-establishment thinking, said that even if the government and the establishment came together, they could not stop the elections.

Former state minister Farrukh Habib criticised the ECP, saying that it was the democratic right of PTI workers to protest, claiming that during his party’s time in power, no one had been stopped from recording their protest.

Ali Nawaz Awan, who was formerly elected as MNA from Islamabad, told Dawn said that it was unfortunate the ECP was not de-notifying the PTI dissidents in parliament.

He alleged that the CEC had double standards as he was expediting the cases of PTI and delaying the cases of PML-N and PPP.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

In the provincial capital of the only province where the PTI is still in power, protesters holding placards, banners and party’s flags assembled in front of the ECP office on Shami Road, led by PTI Provincial Information Secretary MPA Zahir Shah Turo and other leaders.

Addressing the protesters, Mr Turo said the party had sent references against dissident MNAs to the commission, but the ECP remained silent. He also accused the commission of being partial, adding that his party believed in an independent and impartial ECP that would conduct free and fair elections. He also claimed that PTI would continue to struggle for the introduction of electronic voting machines and the granting of right to vote for overseas Pakistanis.

PTI leaders and workers also staged a demonstration in front of the district election office in Parachinar, the headquarters of Kurram.

Karachi

In a demonstration outside the ECP regional head office in Saddar, protesters resorted to calling the CEC ‘a member of the Sharif family’ and warned him of public wrath that would make it untenable for him to defend his position as head of the ECP.

Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly, Haleem Adil Sheikh, told the demonstrators: “We are here to warn the people at the helm of ECP that if they fail to do their job in line with the Constitution, the demonstrators who are outside [the ECP building] today can be inside tomorrow.”

Blaming the three major opposition parties for leading a foreign-funded conspiracy against Pakistan, he warned that the people of Pakistan would not remain silent and all those political forces which were found “against the stability of Pakistan” would face the consequences.

The party’s parliamentary leader in the Sindh Assembly, Khurram Sher Zaman, said that Imran Khan had exposed all “traitors of Pakistan” and the entire nation stood united against them.

Imran Ayub and Zulfiqar Ali also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2022

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