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Raza Rabbani declared interim government to be partial

22 July, 2018

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Former chairman of the Upper House of parliament Raza Rabbani Saturday slammed the caretaker government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), questioning their purported intentions ahead of the upcoming general elections.

Addressing the Senate session, Rabbani declared the interim government to be ‘partial’ and claimed the National Accountability Bureau was being used to advance certain political agendas during the electoral process. He lamented that two major political parties were being targeted, and raised doubts over the transparency of the upcoming polls.

Thundering at the ECP for its ‘criminal silence’ over perceived irregularities in the run-up to the polls, Rabbani warned of ‘dire consequences’ for the government if the elections are ‘engineered’.

Raising questions over the role of the armed forces in the polling process, the PPP leader said the ECP had not defined a code of conduct or terms of reference to govern the deployment of the army on polling day. “At first, the ECP kept saying that soldiers would be deployed outside the polling stations. Now it is saying they will be also be deployed inside. What is the reason for their being stationed inside?” he asked. “The ECP should tell us why they eventually decided to deploy soldiers inside the polling stations. And if they will be inside, what will their function be?” he asked.

Senator Rabbani raised questions over the participation of banned groups in the general election. “Under what law has the ECP permitted banned groups to contest elections?” he asked. “Under what law have Fourth Schedulers been allowed to contest elections? Did the ECP summon details of contestants belonging to banned outfits? Did it ask for records of those candidates who have cases registered against them?” he questioned. “Under which section of the law and constitution are [these individuals] being allowed to contest the elections,” he asked, holding the ECP answerable.

“Is the ECP sleeping?” he asked, wondering if the ECP had failed to notice that two major parties of the country were being targeted. He referred to stoppage of Bilawal Bhutto’s convoy at various points, as well as an incident of stone pelting at a meeting held by former prime minister and PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. “Is the ECP unable to see PML-N leaders being arrested?” he asked, referring to a crackdown on members of the political party in various parts of Punjab in the days leading up to Nawaz Sharif’s return to the country. “Did the ECP question the government about it?” he thundered.

The PPP leader drew the Senate’s attention towards restrictions being placed on the media by disruptions to the circulation of certain newspapers and instructions to television channels not to air certain programmes.

The former Senate chairman also criticised the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for summoning election candidates and interrupting their campaigns. “Candidates are being told to abandon their election campaigns and keep sitting down at the NAB offices,” he said. “This is criminal silence on the part of the ECP … current events make it very clear that the caretaker government is biased. The ECP has remained silent, as though it is being told something from somewhere else,” he claimed. “The caretaker government is saying one thing, and the ECP another,” he said, adding that these developments are casting doubts over the transparency of the upcoming polls. “How can these elections be called free, fair and transparent?” he questioned.

Rabbani lambasted both ECP and the caretaker government, saying they had ‘failed’ to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities. “How will the elections be free and fair in this environment? People of Pakistan want answers to these questions,” he asserted.

Leader of Opposition in Senate Sherry Rehman also criticised the Punjab home minister for saying that he would remove certain names from the Fourth Schedule, and demanded his resignation. She warned against allowing banned organisations to contest elections, saying that it would bring extremist elements into the ‘mainstream’. “Will we have to apologise for being open-minded?” she asked. “We won’t be able to breathe if these people enter the parliament.”

Sherry claimed that divisions were being created in Pakistan by mainstreaming the extremist parties. “We have paid a huge price in the war against terrorism,” she said. “What explanation will we give to the world if women and non-Muslims start being targeted in the country?”

PML-N Senator Pervaiz Rashid criticised a recent statement made by Punjab caretaker Chief Minister Prof Hassan Askari wherein he predicted that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) would gain more seats in the upcoming elections while the number of seats won by PML-N will decline.

Condemning Askari’s statement, Rashid said that as caretaker chief minister, it was not his place to make predictions about the results of the upcoming elections. He demanded that Askari should resign for making statements regarding the outcome of the polls.

National Party Senator Ashok Kumar told the Senate that internet access in some areas of Balochistan had been cut off, disrupting communication in the province. “We have never seen elections being held in this manner,” he claimed. “Everyone knows what kind of elections will take place in Balochistan.”

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