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July 14, 2018

Senators question caretakers’ performance, as violence rises


July 14, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Barrister Ali Zafar on Friday said the caretaker government had issued no directives regarding media blackout on electronic media while the senators also came harsh on the government alleging it had failed to provide security to politicians and ensure fair elections.

Speaking on floor of the House, the information minister said under the law, neither the government could interfere in affairs of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) nor could it issue any directives to the Authority.

The minister also maintained that the caretaker government setup was fulfilling its responsibilities to ensure fair and free elections on July 25 and in this connection, it was also providing every possible support to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).“ To hold elections is the mandate of the ECP, and we are extending required assistance to it,” he said.

The information minister said the government was strongly believed in freedom of expression and media saying it could not issue any directives to Pemra for media blackout on private television channels or otherwise. “The chairman of Pemra and its members are totally independent, and I also have issued no directives to them,” Ali Zafar said.

Earlier, speaking on a point of order, the opposition leader in the Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman said the electronic media was facing blackout which would raise question over transparency of the election process. She said the caretaker government was responsible for media blackout on television channels asking the information minister to resign if he could not control the situation. “I also resigned as information minister when such [like] issues came up during my tenure,” she said.

The opposition leader questioned whether the media was facing censorship, and if it was so, it would raise questions on fairness and transparency of the election.

The members from both opposition and treasury benches questioned performance of the caretaker government with regard to provision of security to the political leaders and candidates and to ensure transparent elections.

Former Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani, while speaking, on a point of order, said it was responsibility of the government to ensure independent and transparent saying the government should tell as to what measures have been taken to provide security to political leaders whereas hundreds of workers of a single party have been arrested.

He regretted that over 200 candidates from banned organisations were taking part in general election, but nobody took notice of the situation. He said the nomination papers of candidates of PML-N and PPP were referred to the election commission while candidates of proscribed organisations were given clean chit straightaway.

Senator Rehman Malik said there was communication gap between the federal and provincial governments with regard to security measures saying that Khalid Kharasani had accepted responsibility of suicide attack on Haroon Bilour.

Meanwhile, the caretaker government also faced allegations from the members of pre-poll rigging as Senator Mir Hasil Bazino of the National Party said the present situation was created just to rig polls as it was not going to hold fair elections.

“There is only one agenda of the caretakers which is to rig elections while the election commission was also totally involved in the whole exercise,” he said

Senator Bazinjo said the caretaker government was using all its efforts to blot name of a single person like Nawaz Sharif saying that name of person who himself was coming to surrender, was being placed on the Exit Control List (ECL). He regretted as to why party workers who were saying they would peacefully welcome their leaders were being arrested. He also alleged that the caretakers had also activated the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) which was busy in arresting people on basis of liking and disliking.

Bazinjo said as to why no action was being taken against Asif Ali Zardari and his sister despite the fact that NAB had solid proofs against them. “This proves that for the first time in country’s history, elections have become controversial even before the polling day,” he said.

Senator Saadia Abbasi of the PML-N registered strong protest against remarks of the PTI Chairman Imran Khan for calling those ‘donkeys’ who would go for welcoming Nawaz Sharif.“ I myself and 37 other senators are going to receive Nawaz Sharif,” she said questioning whether donkeys were sitting in the House.

On this, PTI Senator Noman Wazir said both father and daughter have been proved guilty; two sons are proclaimed offenders, while Nawaz Sharif’s grandsons have been arrested in London.“ You should suggest titles if they should not be called as ‘donkey’ who are going to welcome criminals,” he said.

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