PESHAWAR: Celebrating their party’s stunning victory in the Punjab by-elections, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s members in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Monday demanded the chief election commissioner’s resignation and free and fair elections in the country.

The opposition lawmakers, however, blasted the treasury members for their ‘bias’ against the CEC and eulogised the Election Commission of Pakistan for what they called conducting transparent and peaceful elections in the Punjab province.

The government had called the session, which was chaired by Deputy Speaker Mahmood Jan.

After recitation from the Holy Quran, the chair administered oath to newly-elected PTI MPA from PK-7 Swat, Haji Fazal Maula.

Opposition praises election commissioner over ‘free and fair’ polls

The seat had fallen vacant after the death of Awami National Party member Waqar Ahmad Khan.

The PTI lawmakers said the ‘brave people of Punjab rejected the imported federal government and mafia’ by ballot paper and that only fresh elections could steer the country out of the prevailing political and economic turmoil.

“The by-elections in Punjab were a battle between truth and falsehood, and this is the beginning of a new era in Pakistan,” higher education minister Kamran Khan Bangash told the house.

He said the people of Punjab accepted the narrative of PTI chairman Imran Khan by rejecting the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in the by-polls.

Mr Bangash said the CEC should resign immediately in order to pave the way for holding free and fair elections in the country.

“At least the chief election commissioner should quit. The PTI will no longer accept him,” he said.

The minister said despite the ‘partisan’ role of the ECP, the PTI emerged victorious in the Punjab by-elections.

He said Article 19 of the Constitution was violated by the Punjab government by banning the entry of the people of KP to the province during by-polls.

Mr Bangash said the PTI would secure two-thirds majority in the next general elections and Imran Khan would become the prime minister yet again.

Labour minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai said the ‘imported’ government in the centre had been confined to the federal territory and fresh elections were the only solution in the current situation.

He said the PTI’s electoral triumph had proved that an imported government had been installed in the centre.

Mr Yousafzai said he saluted the people of Punjab for rejecting an imported regime.

Housing minister Amjad Ali Khan said the ‘imported’ government had lost its moral authority to continue after people of Punjab gave a fresh mandate to the PTI.

The opposition members rejected allegations against the CEC and insisted that the ECP had performed a commendable job in the by-elections by proving its impartiality and neutrality.

Awami National Party member Sardar Hussain Babak asked the ruling MPAs to show political sagacity and maturity.

He said the PML-N had accepted its defeat in elections, which was a positive and bold gesture in the country’s political history.

“I wonder why our PTI colleagues are angry whether they win or lose. Please show positivity and celebrate your victory,” he said urging political parties to promote tolerance and respect for others.

Pakistan Peoples Party member Night Yasmin Orakzai the appreciated the ECP for conducting ‘peaceful and fair’ elections in Punjab and said neither returning officers nor the security establishment interfered with the electoral process.

She said former PM Imran Khan copied PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz’s narrative during his election campaign but he was not booked for it, while cases were registered against Maryam. Mr Orakzai claimed that the PTI’s lawmakers from KP ran campaign for their party’s candidates in Punjab.

She said next elections would be held on time next year.

Other members of the opposition also praised the PML-N leadership for ‘having a big heart to accept poll results’.

The lawmakers didn’t finish discussion on a resolution by PTI MPA Abdul Salam regarding victimisation of Pakhtuns and attacks on their properties in Sindh after the opposition pointed out a lack of quorum.

The resolution said the federal government should ask the Sindh government to ensure safety of Pakhtuns in Karachi and other areas of the province, while political forces, including nationalist parties in Sindh, should play their positive role to defuse ethnic tensions in the province.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2022

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