PML-N senators express concern over security, fear rigging
ISLAMABAD: As the members of the Senate expressed dissatisfaction over security measures taken for the election campaign and feared rigging, caretaker Interior Minister Muhammad Azam Khan Friday said all out measures had been taken for the protection of political leaders and candidates, particularly at public meetings.
Responding to a discussion in the Senate on law and order on Friday, he said an election coordination and facilitation cell has been established in Islamabad, which is working round the clock while civil armed forces have also been deployed as per requirements of the provincial governments and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Senator Javed Abbasi of the PML-N, earlier, moved the motion for discussing law and order situation in the country particular reference to provision of security to the political leaders. The session which began on Friday was convened on requisition of senators of the PML-N and their allies.
The PML-N senator also decried attitude being meted to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Adiala Jail. “You cannot end connection of our workers with their leader by sending him behind the bars,” he said, adding that it was only the PML-N and its leadership which was being targeted.
Senator Javed Abbasi questioned how the July 25 polls could be transparent when political workers were being arrested, saying the political parties were also being stopped from carrying out political activities. “It seems a filter has been installed for the political parties,” he said, adding that the PML-N already had reservations against the caretaker government. He pointed out that cases against the PML-N leaders and workers who participated in a rally were registered under the Anti-Terrorism Act which also did not happen in martial law periods.
The interior minister said the cell was conducting effective coordination with all the stakeholders, particularly the provincial governments, the Election Commission, Islamabad Capital Territory administration and National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) for ensuring law and order in the country during electioneering. The minister said that Nacta, Intelligence Bureau and other intelligence agencies are also supporting the Ministry of Interior in this regard. Azam Khan said the personnel of Army would be deployed inside and outside the polling stations for security purposes, while provincial governments shall make arrangements for installation of CCTV cameras at most sensitive polling stations. He said the provincial governments have been requested to provide security to candidates, foreign observers and Chinese working on CPEC and non-CPEC projects.
Earlier, taking part in the discussion, the PML-N senators demanded level playing field in the election campaign and peaceful environment for transparent and credible elections in the country.
Asif Kirmani said the caretaker setup has failed to provide security to ensure transparent elections. He expressed concerns on the fresh wave of terrorism in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa targeting election rallies and killing several people. Lt Gen (R) Abdul Qayyum said the PML-N does not believe in politics of conspiracies and everyone should come forward on the basis of performance. He observed that security situation in the country was better than that of 2003, but still it was not ideal due to some regional problems. Ateeq Shaikh of the MQM said free and fair elections are vital for continuity of democracy in the country. He said it was task of the Army to provide security for the elections, while the ECP was responsible to conduct polls in a transparent and fair manner. He regretted registration of FIR against Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Ayesha Raza Farooq said it is an irony that a particular party is being facilitated, whereas the PML-N candidates are being harassed. She said the ECP should take notice. Pervaiz Rashid of the PML-N said the country’s history was full of rigged elections but no lessons were learnt to ensure credible elections. He said the international media had also exposed the game which was played after alleging rigging in the 2013 elections. “The detail of situation created for the 2018 elections has been stated by media organisations like New York Times, Voice of America and BBC which have no links with the PML-N,” he said.
Without naming any institution, he said, they have started making and breaking parties through their media trial. “You have done enough and we have tolerated enough,” he said, adding that now enough is enough. “If elections are rigged then anger will be against you and not against winners,” he said. Mushahid Hussain Syed of the PML-N said the verdict of the accountability court in Avenfield reference was based on ill intention. He said the decision was pre-planned. He said caretakers have completely failed to deliver for holding neutral elections in the country, observing that every institution should follow the ECP’s code of conduct. Mushahid said that as stated by two senior journalists, the verdict of the accountability court was brought in a shopping bag from Serena Hotel which was a matter of shame.
“An elected prime minister like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was humiliated and now the same attitude is being meted out to Nawaz Sharif,” he regretted, observing that it reflects the dirty thought. He said the surprise return of Nawaz Sharif was a shock for those who were saying that he would not come back if verdict was given against him. He said the same tactics were being used to rig elections which were used in the past, but the caretaker government was not seen anywhere and it was playing the role of postman.
“In the past also the winners were used to be decided before polls but now the electoral symbol like jeep has been punctured,” he said.
Senator Saadia Abbasi of the PML-N said Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz left behind ailing Kulsoom Nawaz only for the sake of democracy. She said now everybody is saying that elections would be rigged.
PTI leader Shibli Faraz said the PML-N is afraid of its likely defeat in the upcoming general elections that is why it is maligning others.
The PTI leader Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar said the government should provide complete security to all the political parties for a smooth and peaceful elections. Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mushtaq Ahmed said across the board accountability and free, fair, and transparent elections are vital for democracy in the country. The MQM leader Nighat Mirza said her party is not being allowed to run election campaign in Karachi and the ECP should take notice of this situation.
Rana Maqbool of the PML-N said it would not be possible to bulldoze political forces, saying the masses would give their fair opinion on July 25.
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