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ISLAMABAD: A large number of supporters and activists of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) staged countrywide protests on Tuesday outside the offices of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against “anti-PTI and biased” chief election commissioner CEC), demanding his resignation, and the disqualification of dissident PTI lawmakers.

In the federal capital, the Islamabad Police and the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA) installed barricades to prevent the protestors from reaching the office of the ECP located at Constitution Avenue. Section 144 was imposed in Red Zone. Still, protestors in a considerable number managed to assemble at Covered Market in Sector G-6 and marched towards the ECP office to record their protest against the electoral body.

The PTI chairman and former Prime Minister, Imran Khan, did not participate in the protests.

Addressing the protestors, senior PTI leader and former information minister Fawad Chaudhry said thousands of protestors were stopped from reaching the protests site due to the installation of barricades. “Today is just a token protest. You will see hundreds of thousands of people will march towards Islamabad whenever Imran Khan asks them to do so,” he said, adding, the PTI has the capacity to assemble its workers on a short notice.

Former interior minister Sheikh Rasheed from Awami Muslim League (AML) said, “We, under the leadership of Imran Khan, were never in such strong position as we are today— due to the follies of the government. They have infuriated the masses by toppling Imran Khan’s government by working on an ‘imperialist’ agenda. This ‘imported’ government is unacceptable to all.”

PTI leader Farrukh Habib said protests were peaceful and protestors wanted to register their grievances outside the ECP offices in a peaceful manner. “This is our democratic right. But the way this government has tried to stop us is sheer highhandedness. These rulers have lost their senses and panicked seeing the ever increasing popularity of Imran Khan,” he added.

Others leaders including Shibli Faraz and Ali Nawaz Awan also addressed the protestors.

Reports received from other cities including Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Sahiwal, Rawalpindi, Quetta, Jhelum, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Sukkur, Attock, Abbottabad, Haripur and other districts suggested that protestors assembled in big numbers outside the ECP offices to record their protest.

In response to the protests, the electoral body issued a statement, saying it is an impartial constitutional entity that is discharging its constitutional and legal responsibilities and will continue to do so in future without any pressure.

The commission repeated its statement issued a day earlier that it has summoned 46 PTI dissident lawmakers—20 MNAs on Thursday (tomorrow) and Punjab Assembly’s 26 MPAs on the coming May 6 - for hearing their cases under Article 63-A.

The ECP also denied alleged slow progress in foreign funding cases related to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). The Scrutiny Committee has sought related record from the two political parties and adjourned the case till May 9, the ECP said in a press release.

A progress report has been sought from the Scrutiny Committee’s chairman on the coming April 28, the ECP said.

The ECP said it has received a letter from the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives dated April 18 informing that the government would start the seventh population and housing census countrywide on the coming August 1 and the results of this census would be shared with the ECP on December 31 this year. In such a case, the ECP said, its ongoing delimitation drive based on the results of population census for general elections would become irrelevant and the ECP will have to launch new population census by January 1, next year. The completion of delimitation drive would require four months, the ECP said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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