(LEFT) PTI candidates, including Salman Akram Raja, Rehana Dar, retired Maj Tahir Sadik, Ayaz Amir and others address a press conference in the capital; while QWP leader Sikandar Hayat Sherpao and Barrister Saif address the media following their meeting.—Tanveer Shahzad / Dawn.com
(LEFT) PTI candidates, including Salman Akram Raja, Rehana Dar, retired Maj Tahir Sadik, Ayaz Amir and others address a press conference in the capital; while QWP leader Sikandar Hayat Sherpao and Barrister Saif address the media following their meeting.—Tanveer Shahzad / Dawn.com

• Party to kick off nationwide demos against ‘rigging’ today
• Qaiser, other leaders meet Sherpao, Liaquat Baloch; seek support for agitation
• Efforts underway for ‘backdoor contacts’ with PPP

ISLAMABAD: Despite its hectic efforts to form a government, the PTI has finally resolved to sit on the opposition benches in national and provincial assemblies, while launching a countrywide protest against alleged rigging in the February 8 general elections.

A PTI source also told Dawn that the party’s incarcerated founder, Imran Khan, has tasked former National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser with engaging political parties to muster support for the protest drive.

The party, which also issued a white paper against alleged rigging on Friday, has decided to kick off its demonstrations from today (Saturday).

A PTI delegation led by Mr Qaisar met the leader of Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) on Friday, while a meeting with Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party’s Mehmood Khan Achakzai is scheduled to take place today (Saturday).

Addressing a news conference after meeting with Mr Sherpao, PTI leader Barrister Saif confirmed the decision to sit on the opposition benches in the Centre and Punjab Assembly In the second phase, these parties could form an alliance in the centre and provinces, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where PTI -backed independents are in a position to form the government with a two-thirds majority.

The PTI source added that even though the party has categorically announced it would not engage with the PPP and PML-N, efforts were underway for back-channel contacts with the former. If they do become allies, the PPP and PTI would have enough seats in the NA to form the government.

PTI delegation meets QWP chief

The meeting with QWP’s chief, Aftab Sherpao, took place at his residence in the federal capital.

During the meeting, Mr Qaiser expressed concerns over the alleged election rigging and emphasised the need to unite the nation against it.

He said the worst kind of rigging was committed in the Feb 8 elections.

Mr Sherpao said the controversial elections could not bring political and economic stability. His son, Sikandar Hayat, said QWP will support PTI in its countrywide protest against the “rigging”.

Barrister Saif told a subsequent presser that talks with the QWP chief were held on a one-point agenda: launching a countrywide protest drive.

“We have decided to sit in the opposition and are contacting other parties on the directives of PTI founder Imran Khan,” he added.

Talking about the party’s protest plans, Mr Saif said JI and JUI-F have also announced a countrywide protest campaign against the alleged rigging.

The PTI leader claimed that the results were “altered”, and therefore, the PTI is seeking justice by keeping itself within the parameters of law and democratic norms.

Talks with JI

Later in the day, Mr Qaiser-led delegation reached the residence of JI leader Mian Muhammad Aslam and discussed the post-election scenario.

JI’s Liaquat Baloch and Inayatullah Khan also attended the meeting. The PTI delegation included Amir Dogar, Shaukat Yousufzai and Mr Saif.

The delegation sought JI’s support for joint protests against the alleged rigging.

Talking to the media after the meeting, Mr Qaiser said the meeting only discussed cooperation for the protest campaign.

“We have spoken to Jamaat-i-Islami in this regard,” he said, adding that now decisions will be taken in front of the public and not behind closed doors.

“Free and fair elections are our basic right which was usurped. We have given a call for protest against the rigged elections.”

The former NA speaker said PTI would hold a peaceful protest against the alleged rigging and that it was their legal right to hold a demonstration. “The entire nation should participate in the protest.”

According to reports, JI leaders have told the visiting delegation that the party’s shura will decide on joining PTI’s protests.

Mr Baloch said Pakistan was facing serious instability after the elections.

“Our position is clear: we have rejected elections’ results,” Mr Baloch said, adding that to protect the Constitution, those who believe in political and democratic values needed to unite.

Earlier, the JI leader led a demonstration outside the National Press Club in Islamabad.

Addressing the protesters, he said the Feb 8 polls were the 16th general elections of Pakistan, but unfortunately, all of them have been more rigged than the previous.

The elections were conducted through blatant force, and the Election Commission “failed to protect the democratic rights of citizens”.

Mr Baloch demanded the immediate resignation of Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and demanded the caretaker government establish a judicial commission to probe the fairness of the recent general elections, and its findings should be made public.

He said such elections would only add to discontent among the masses and weaken the country.

Mr Aslam, JI’s candidate from Islamabad’s NA-46 seat, termed the elections “fake” and added that it damaged the economy. “Power is being given to those who are the slaves of America to suck the blood of people.”

PTI core committee meeting

Earlier, PTI’s core committee met on Friday and finalised the plans for the nationwide protest campaign on the call of the party’s founder Imran Khan.

The meeting urged the whole nation to come out of their houses against the “massive rigging”. The meeting also sought the resignation of the chief election commissioner.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2024

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