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July 22, 2018

Senators raise serious questions over polls’ transparency

Top Story

July 22, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The members of the Senate while raising serious questions over transparency of the general elections observed that the caretaker governments in the center and provinces have failed to fulfill their constitutional obligations.

The members from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in the Senate on Saturday also alleged discriminatory attitude being meted out to their leaders and party workers as Senator Pervaiz Rashid said the favourite (Ladla) like Imran Khan is being given concessions one after the other while his opponents are receiving notices.

The members of the Upper House also demanded that heads of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) should also be summoned to the House. The members from PML-N and PPP pointed fingers at the ECP and NAB as Pervaiz Rashid said apparently, efforts are being made to hand victory to a particular party and arrange defeat for the second party. He also took on the caretaker Punjab chief minister for predicting results in favour of a particular party and demanded his resignation. “Who is Hasan Askari to predict that the PTI will make the government and the PML-N is going to secure less number of seats,” he said. The PML-N Senator Saadia Abbasi also asked:“Hasan Askari should tell as to what is his agenda,” the senator said adding the Chief Election Commissioner should also take notice of the contents of the interview.

It was Senator Mohsin Aziz of PTI only who tackled both the PPP and PML-N saying it has become fashion to criticise the armed forces. “You should end anti-state agenda and stop destroying state institutions,” he said. He said every institution should pass through accountability but at the same time certain elements wanted a clash among the institutions.

The House also witnessed walkout from the senators of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), PPP and PML-N in protest against recent restrictions on the trade union activities in the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) which Senator Raza Rabbani said were imposed by the caretaker government.

Speaking on environment ahead of July 25 polls, the ex-chairman Senate Raza Rabbani while saying that two major political parties are being targeted, regretted that both the caretaker governments and the ECP have failed to fulfill their constitutional obligation to ensure fair, free and peaceful elections. In this connection, he referred to the Mastung suicide attack, killing of Haroon Bilour, separate incidents of firing on the caravans of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Shaikh Aftab, Akram Khan Durrani and creation of hurdles in the way of Bilawal-led rally in South Punjab.

Rabbani also raised questions over the proposed presence of army personnel inside the polling stations on the polling day and magisterial powers being given to the army officers. He questioned whether there would be military courts as the army officers were given magisterial powers and whether each such officer would be given charge of 20 polling stations. “Whether it will be the presiding officer or army officer whose orders or view will be accepted,” he said. He also raised objection to assigning election duties to bank officers questioning on what basis have they been selected for duties.

Raza Rabbani also lodged protest when the caretaker Information Minister Ali Zafar tried to clarify the situation about assigning magisterial power to the army officers.The minister said the army is being deputed at the polling stations to maintain law and order on the polling day saying the magisterial powers would be given to some officers of army and civil armed forces and not to all the personnel. “I will also present a list of officers being given magisterial powers,” he said.

The information minister said an impression is being given that economy was also responsibility of the caretaker government saying that economic conditions could not be changed in a period of one month. “Owing to shortage of time, the finance minister cannot give better response in the House,” he said. The minister said it would be highly regretful if the House indulges in a blame game on issue of terrorism saying there should be unity among all. “The federal and provincial governments are making efforts to maintain law and order in the country,” he said. He also rejected an impression that the Ministry of Information is involved in media censorship. “We have taken steps to give freedom to Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority,” he said.

The House also witnessed exchange of harsh words between Raza Rabbani and Attique Shaikh of MQM on the issue of taking the floor. “I know who are you and from where you have come,” Rabbani said.

As the Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq said floor should be given to Rabbani as he is most experienced parliamentarian, the MQM Senator said all members enjoyed equal rights. Leader of the House in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq alleged that the caretakers have become a party to the general elections asking whether the caretakers themselves decided to launch a crackdown against political workers or took orders from somewhere else. He pointed out that cases were registered against him and many others which would serve nothing but create more anger amongst the party workers.

The senior PML-N leader and veteran politician went on saying that the caretaker government lacks wisdom.“If they tried to get results of their liking then there will be reaction against them and not against the winners and there will be further division in the country,” he said. He said the forces which have power in the country should not adopt the attitude which they were following and said it would have negative impact and damage the country. “It will not be damaging for a single institution but for Pakistan,” he said observing that the institution could not perform if masses do not stand behind them.

Senator Pervaiz Rashid also staged a separate protest while questioning the way of implementation of the code of conduct for army as given by the ECP. He said God forbid, the country is placed on the black list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on money laundering while attempts are being made to bring terrorists as parliamentarians. The PML-N senators pointed out that those saying that Nawaz Sharif has committed Rs300 billion corruption, are indulging in contempt of courts. “The Supreme Court and the Accountability Court in their verdicts against Nawaz Sharif have not declared that he committed Rs300 billion corruption,” he said.

Senator Sherry Rehman of PPP said the country and elections are standing at a crossroad saying the reputation of Pakistan is linked with the reputation of elections. She rejected an impression that PPP is supporting Ejazul Haq saying their candidate Shaukat Basra after leaving PPP is contesting as an independent candidate. “How the PPP can support son of Ziaul Haq who killed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and democracy,” he said maintaining there could be no compromise with friends of Ziaul Haq.

Regretting grant of permission to leaders of banned organizations to contest general elections, Rehman questioned what will happen if those on the Fourth Schedule make their way to the Parliament. She said the democracy could not allow extremist forces to enter the corridors of the Parliament. She said she always used to tell the Indians that Pakistanis do not elect extremists as parliamentarians as Pakistanis have always rejected such elements but she observed the voters would be under pressure to elect the candidates of banned organisations. She also demanded presentation of names in the House of those leaders facing life threats. Rehman also expressed concerns over suspension of Internet service in Balochistan saying all results from polling stations would be transmitted via Internet. “How the polls are fair if the internet is not working,” she said. Senator Ashok Kumar also raised concerns over closure of Internet service in six districts of Balochistan saying it smacked of rigging in elections. On that the Senate chairman sought a report from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on decision to close Internet service.

Later, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani prorogued session of the House which was summoned on requisition of the PML-N members and their allies.