LAHORE: The PTI and its key ally PML-Q have vehemently rejected the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to appoint opposition PML-N’s nominee Mohsin Naqvi as caretaker chief minister of Punjab.

The two allies have unanimously stated that they would knock on the doors of the court and take to the streets against the electoral watchdog’s decision.

“PML-N has history of selecting their own umpires but it’s incredible how ECP has selected a sworn enemy of PTI as caretaker CM Punjab — a post meant for a non-partisan person,” PTI Chairman Imran Khan tweeted.

Posting a picture of Mr Naqvi’s plea bargain to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) requesting that he be allowed to pay Rs3.5 million as plea bargain, Mr Khan stated in his tweet that Mr Naqvi made a voluntary return deal with the anti-graft watchdog.

Ex-PM’s party, ally PML-Q to move court, take to streets to protest ECP’s decision

The Supreme Court had declared in a suo motu case no. 17/2016 that a person responsible for voluntary return could not hold any public office at federal or provincial level nor in any state organisation, the PTI chief said, adding that the ECP “has helped reduce Pakistan to a banana republic making our democracy a joke”.

Mr Khan announced that he would be holding a news conference on Monday (today) “to expose this entire farce”.

PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry also rejected Mr Naqvi’s appointment as Punjab’s caretaker chief minister and announced that the PTI would launch a mass protest movement.

Calling party workers to action, Mr Chaudhry said no option had been left other than fighting against the present system on streets. “The ECP has never disappointed,” he tweeted in a sarcastic tone.

In a separate video message, the PTI leader said his party would approach courts against Mr Naqvi’s appointment. Describing the Election Commission as a subsidiary of the PML-N and the PPP, Mr Chaudhry claimed that Mr Naqvi had been tasked with delaying the elections in Punjab and to sabotage the PTI.

He said the public had lost hope in the country’s institutions and would take to the streets under Imran Khan’s leadership and reject decisions taken in “closed rooms”.

Asad Umar, the PTI Secretary General, said appointing Mr Naqvi as caretaker chief minister was akin to making a mockery of the Constitution. He said the PTI would challenge the decision and hold protests against it.

The PML-Q senior leader and former federal minister Moonis Elahi told Dawn that his party would be going to the court, wondering how could someone so “blatantly inclined towards he opposition” be chosen for the role. He said his party would join hands with the PTI and stage protests at every level.

Mr Elahi said he was apprehended this appointment several days ago. Quoting his Jan 15 tweet, he said this “imported government” had now one of its key members in place. He tweeted that Mr Naqvi had come with a two-point agenda — extend the present set-up’s tenure for a year, and do all that he can to damage the PTI and the families of Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain.

In his Jan 15 tweet, Mr Elahi posted a picture of Mohsin Naqvi outside Nawaz Sharif’s London residence behind Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and stated: “This is the man who used to say that he is a child of [Asif Ali] Zardari, partner of Shehbaz Sharif and the relative of Chaudhrys and will take decisions concerning Pakistan.”

Outgoing chief minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi tweeted: “How one can expect justice from a person who did Rs3.5m plea bargain in the Haris Steel case.”

Since Mr Naqvi has been claiming that he is a relative of Chaudhrys, the senior Elahi questioned how his close relative could become caretaker chief minister.

He said the ECP’s decision was against all principles and code of conduct. The former chief minister said that he and his party would approach the Supreme Court against the ECP’s decision of appointing a controversial caretaker chief minister.

PTI central leader Shireen Mazari tweeted a picture allegedly showing Mohsin Naqvi with former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa “taken at a recent Emirates flight to Dubai”. She further alleged that Mr Naqvi was “famous” for many things, including playing a key role in the “regime-change operation” and running a news channel without a licence.

In her follow-up tweet, Ms Mazari revised her observation that Mr Naqvi was talking to Gen Bajwa, stating: “Seems there is question mark on the man in picture with Bajwa — may not be Mohsin Naqvi.” She posted Mr Naqvi’s London picture with that second tweet and said that this “definitely is the man walking dutifully behind Crime Minister”.

The PTI’s central Punjab chief, Dr Yasmin Rashid, said the ECP could not have made a worse choice than selecting Mr Naqvi. “The PTI presented neutral and credible bureaucrats’ names, but the PML-N gave controversial candidates and the ECP acted upon imported government’s signals,” she said. Dr Rashid said the party’s central Punjab chapter would hold a peaceful demonstration in front of the ECP’s offices on Tuesday (tomorrow).

Another PTI leader, Shafqat Mahmood, termed Mr Naqvi’s appointment as provincial chief executive “a mockery”, saying he was the “one man considered most unsuitable for this position”. He added: “This appointment amounts to virtually handing over power to PML-N and PPP to conduct elections in Punjab. So much for free and fair elections.”

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2023

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