• Elahi accuses Sanaullah of using IB to trace, scare MPAs into defection ahead of CM’s poll
• Mazari claims ‘voice recorder’ found in her bedroom, vows to move IHC against violation of her privacy

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: Opposition allies, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and PML-Q, on Tuesday accused the coalition government of ‘misusing’ state machinery to harass, intimidate and spy on their lawmakers and leaders ahead of the run-off election for Punjab chief minister scheduled for July 22.

Accusing Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah of using the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to trace legislators and scare them into defection ahead of Friday’s vote, Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi warned the agency to stay away from the fray.

Shireen Mazari
Shireen Mazari

Addressing a press conference in Lahore, Elahi, a candidate for the highest office in the province against the incumbent Hamza Shehbaz, admonished IB Director General Fuad Asadullah for “tracking PML-Q and PTI lawmakers at the behest of Shehbaz Sharif and Sanaullah”.

Prime Minister Sharif, he alleged, had constituted a cell specifically for keeping a watch on rival MPAs as the chief minister’s election approaches.

Flanked by PTI leaders, he said: “I warn the IB head to stop this. They have lost the public trust and now they are resorting to such cheap tactics,” adding the interior minister will be exposed if he did anything unlawful.

Denying that any other elements were involved in the alleged “track and trace” operation, the PML-Q leader said: “Only the prime minister is doing it.” He further alleged that an overseas Pakistani businessman associated with the PML-Q had recently been picked up by the IB from the Lahore airport.

Speaking on the occasion, former PTI minister Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed told reporters his party had nominated Elahi for the Punjab chief ministership.

“A directive by party chief Imran Khan has been sent to all Punjab lawmakers to reach Lahore and ensure their presence for a meeting to be held on Wednesday (today). Imran Khan himself will reach the city today (Wednesday) and stay for two days. The PTI has the support of 188 MPAs while the PML-N has 173 to 174. This gap cannot be filled,” Mr Rasheed said, reiterating his party’s demand for free and fair polls, and warned the political situation would deteriorate further if there was any intervention in the elections.

PML-Q leader Amir Saeed Rawn claimed the man detained at the Lahore airport on June 19 “was forced to give a statement that Parvez Elahi is involved in money laundering”.

‘Bugging’ attempt

Meanwhile, PTI senior vice president Dr Shireen Mazari alleged that a domestic staff member at her residence in Islamabad found a voice recorder attached to a coffee table in her bedroom in an attempt to spy on her.

Addressing a press conference along with PTI Senator Shibli Faraz in the federal capital on Tuesday, Dr Mazari said a similar device had been recovered from party chief Imran Khan’s Banigala house a few days ago.

She said she was at Mr Khan’s residence when her personal secretary called her that a device had dropped from under a coffee table in her bedroom after a domestic help bumped into it.

Ms Mazari added she initially thought it was a USB, but upon investigation, it was found to be a “US-made voice recorder”, planted in her house to spy on her in sheer violation of Article 14(1) of the Constitution and her right to privacy.

Parvez Elahi
Parvez Elahi

She questioned as to who had installed the device in her bedroom, after “kidnapping” her in May, adding that PTI workers were being harassed.

“The Constitution and law are being flouted and if a journalist speaks up, an FIR is registered against him/her, as four cases are filed against her,” she added. Mazari claimed that brutal tactics were being used to silence dissenting voices.

However, she vowed: “My right to privacy and protection has been violated. I am filing a constitutional petition in the Islamabad High Court against this unconstitutional act.”

She further claimed the employee who found the device was being threatened that his son would be killed, adding she wasn’t sure what information “they” were trying to get from her bedroom. She cautioned that the government and the state needed to realise the sensitivity of the situation because people were angry, as was evident from the results of the recent by-elections in Punjab.

The former human rights minister made it clear that no one could silence them through such tactics and that they would expose everyone behind such ‘dirty games’.

Speaking on the occasion, Senator Faraz said installing a device at Shireen Mazari’s house was alarming. “We don’t know how many other people are being spied on through such devices in their homes and offices,” he added.

Later, PTI Central Secretary General Asad Umar also said “bugging” Ms Mazari’s house showed how desperate the government was and how much it feared her. “Pakistan is under fascism,” he remarked.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2022

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