Today's Paper | May 22, 2024

Updated 21 Feb, 2024 08:25am

Senators call for CEC’s arrest, trial for ‘treason’

• PTI lawmaker warns unrest to continue if those with mandate not allowed to rule
• ‘N’ senator seeks release of all political prisoners, including Imran and missing persons

ISLAMABAD: The controversy over a “stolen mandate” echoed in the Senate on Tuesday, with lawmakers from different political parties calling for action against Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, including his arrest and high treason trial under Article 6.

They also cried foul over alleged rigging before and after elections and called for investigations into the charges of manipulated results and audit of Forms 45 and 47.

Speaking in the Senate, veteran politician Tahir Bizenjo strongly criticised the Election Commission, asserting that it had completely failed to perform its primary responsibility of conducting free and fair elections. He demanded Mr Raja’s arrest for allegedly violating the Constitution.

Mr Bizenjo said the mandate given by the people to their real representatives had been stolen to bring “drug lords” and “land grabbers” to the assemblies. He wondered whether the judiciary had the right to take away PTI’s election symbol, adding: “Can these rigged elections bring stability to the country?”

He warned that the country would continue to face crises until the judiciary and the army stopped stepping out of their domains. He also urged the Senate chairman to issue production orders for PTI Senator Ejaz Chaudhary, stressing that it was his constitutional and legal right.

Senator Mushtaq Ahmed of Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), in his speech, demanded the trial of the chief election commissioner on charges of high treason for “failing to meet his constitutional obligation”.

He said that under the Constitution, the ECP is supposed to hold free, fair and transparent elections per the law and guard against corrupt practices. “All these five elements were missing out of the recent electoral exercise,” he remarked.

Noting that the Election Commission should apologise to the nation over this failure, he asked the CEC to resign from the post immediately.

Mr Ahmed described the Feb 8 elections as a farce and said he saw the worst-ever rigging during these polls. He alleged that the ECP, caretakers, judiciary and establishment played a role in stealing elections.

Noting that those involved in the rigging were playing with the country’s future, he also alleged that the polls had been sold out and demanded a high-powered judicial commission to investigate the matter thoroughly.

‘Forensic audit of Forms 45’

Taking part in the debate, PTI Senator Syed Ali Zafar said the country’s youth brought “a revolution of hope” despite “pre-poll rigging”. He warned of spreading anarchy and unrest in the country if those to whom the people had given a mandate were not given the right to rule.

He also criticised the decision to deprive the PTI of its election symbol, pointing out that a 17-member bench of the Supreme Court had held that a party’s poll symbol could not be taken away.

Senator Sardar Shafiq Tareen of the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party alleged that three constituencies in Balochistan were sold out for Rs1.5 billion and winners were declared losers in the province through post-election rigging.

PML-N Senator Irfanul Haq Siddiqui said that those talking about rigging in the Feb 8 elections should also recall that the 2018 polls were also rigged.

He told the PTI that courts and legal forums were available to address their grievances against rigging, but they should say goodbye to politics of hatred and play the role of opposition in the parliament.

PTI Senator Saifullah Abro demanded that a forensic audit of Forms 45 of all national and provincial constituencies be held to discover the truth.

Need for unity govt stressed

PML-N Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed urged the need to form a “unity government” consisting of PPP, PML-N and PTI. “There is an initiative for the political parties to form a unity government,” he insisted and warned that if political parties did not take the initiative, the same would go to the GHQ.

He suggested that Mr Sharif should become the head of the state and offer premiership to the PPP. He agreed that despite all difficulties, the PTI had emerged as the single-largest party in the National Assembly, but the elections had resulted in a split mandate.

Senator Mushahid urged the need for a healing touch by releasing all political prisoners, including Imran Khan and missing persons.

ANP Senator Umer Farooq said both winners and losers were disappointed, but no one was talking about who had stolen their mandate. “A presiding officer or a commissioner couldn’t do so,” he pointed out.

He said that all democratic institutions, including the Senate, the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies, had been handed over to “them”, and today, the country was being run at the mercy of others instead of politicians.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2024

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