Wary of ECP ‘bias’, PPP urges polls at earliest

Published September 15, 2023
PPP Information Secretary Shazia Marri flanked by Faisal Karim Kundi and Shehzad Saeed Cheema in Lahore on Sept 14. — Screengrab from video by PPP Media Cell
PPP Information Secretary Shazia Marri flanked by Faisal Karim Kundi and Shehzad Saeed Cheema in Lahore on Sept 14. — Screengrab from video by PPP Media Cell

• CEC meeting to continue today, focus on pro-PML-N men in caretaker set-up, delimitations, economy
• PPP shows flexibility on delimitation, asks ECP to shorten its proposed timeline for the exercise

LAHORE: In a highly-anticipated meeting of its Central Executive Committee on Thursday, the PPP leadership expressed concerns over the inclusion of the pro-PML-N men in the caretaker cabinet, the ban slapped on development projects in Sindh by the election watchdog, as well as the delay in the announcement of a date for general elections.

Reiterating its chairman’s earlier gripe of an uneven playing field in the lead-up to the polls, the PPP urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold general elections as soon as possible, if not within the 90-day constitutional limit.

The PPP top brass was found in agreement with Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari when it came to the timings of the elections, contrary to Asif Ali Zardari’s recent statement favouring a delay in elections due to fresh delimitations in light of the census that was approved by the coalition government days before the dissolution of the National Assembly.

Some of the members were concerned over the ‘aggressive’ tone of the PPP chairperson in recent public gatherings. How­ever, the PPP chairman and majority of the members brushed aside concerns about his “aggressive tone” and vowed to toe the “same line of true and just politics” and take their stance to the election campaign.

Little leeway possible

Addressing a press conference on the sidelines of the moot, PPP Information Secretary Shazia Marri said the CEC meeting would also continue today (Friday), to take stock of the president’s letter to the ECP suggesting holding polls by Nov 6, the current political situation, general elections, the inclusion of pro-PML-N people as ministers in the caretaker set-up, national economy, and a host of other issues.

Flanked by Faisal Karim Kundi and Shehzad Saeed Cheema, she argued that holding polls at the earliest was in the interests of the country so that it could come out of the present uncertainty.

“We do acknowledge that delimitation of constituencies after the new census is essential. But, efforts should be made not to violate other constitutional provisions for the sake of one. Or at least any such violation should be as little as possible,” on Thursday.

She said that the PPP had always been in favour of holding the polls within 90 days, whether in Punjab or elsewhere, a reference to the party’s opposition to conducting elections in Punjab in 90 days after the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly on Jan 14, 2023.

She said the PPP had no objections to the delimitation of constituencies under the new census, but it had reservations regarding the time being consumed for the purpose. The ECP had earlier cut the period for delimitations and the party was of the opinion that it could further reduce the time period so that violation of the 90-day constitutional limit for holding the polls may not slip too far.

In response to a question, she said that legal experts informed the CEC participants that President Arif Alvi did not have the power to write to the chief election commissioner or suggest any date for the polling day. She said that the president’s letter had created confusion and added that Mr Alvi had no clear stance and was playing on both sides of the wicket.

She said that CEC members had reservations about the inclusion of former bureaucrats and PML-N confidants Ahad Cheema, Fawad Hassan Fawad and Umar Saif as ministers into the federal cabinet of caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar.

According to an insider, “Another thing which came to the light [during the moot] was the concern among the party members that the PML-N is getting a kind of favour in the current caretaker setup both in federal and Punjab governments. And it’s no more secret.”

“The people of Pakistan are seeing how those individuals are known for their tilt towards a certain party. It doesn’t justify the impartiality of the caretaker government.”

Answering a question about polls, Ms Marri said that the PPP wished that all political parties should be on one page on the issue of the election so that none could object to its results. She recalled that the PPP chairman had earlier formed a committee to approach all parties, including the PTI, for holding general elections to the national and provincial assemblies on a single day but the PTI had backtracked at the last minute.

Ms Marri alleged that the PPP was being meted out a discriminatory treatment by the ECP as there was a ban on even the development works announced and executed by the party’s government before completing its term in Sindh, while in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces the caretakers were initiating new development schemes without any let or go.

Speaking about the show cause issued to Latif Khosa for representing Imran Khan in courts, Mr Kundi said that Mr Khosa has not yet been expelled from the party. He said that Mr Khosa had been invited to the CEC meeting but he did not join.

Imran Ayub in Karachi also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2023

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