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LAHORE: General Secretary of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Asad Umar has demanded that a date for elections to the Punjab Assembly seats be announced immediately, otherwise the party will launch a ‘jail bharo (court arrest) movement’ as it intends to “take all possible steps to defend the Constitution”.

He said so while addressing a press conference here on Tuesday; he was flanked by PTI’s Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry and General Secretary for Central Punjab Hammad Azhar.

Asad Umar pointed out that several days had passed since the Lahore High Court (LHC) gave a verdict about the elections. “The court gave a clear order that elections should be held within 90 days (of the dissolution of the provincial legislature) and the Constitution also clearly states this.

“The court also ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to give a date for the elections immediately after consultations with the Punjab governor,” he said. After four days, the ECP did hold a meeting with the governor but the meeting ended without giving any date for elections. “The whole nation is witnessing that the coalition government is running away from elections. The ‘imported rulers’ and their allies are making all efforts in violation of the Constitution to ensure that they do not face PTI Chairman Imran Khan at the polls,” he claimed.

The country is facing a constitutional crisis due to the reluctance of the coalition government and their sympathisers to hold elections, Asad Umar said, adding that they were afraid that Imran Khan would return to power.

Legal experts are also of the view that by not fulfilling its constitutional role, the ECP is blatantly violating the Constitution. “According to a legal expert, the Chief Election Commissioner could be arrested and forced to face harsh punishment for not fulfilling his constitutional duty,” the senior PTI leader remarked.

Violating the Constitution could tantamount to committing treason. “Hence, it is vital that the ECP follows the LHC’s orders and immediately announces the date for elections.”

Asad Umar expressed the hope that on Thursday the Peshawar High Court would also order the Punjab governor to hold the elections immediately. “We would not allow the government to deprive the people of their democratic right to elect their representatives. If an attempt is made in this regard then the PTI would launch a countrywide movement,” he said.

For his part, Fawad Chaudhry accused Senior Vice President of the Pakistan Muslim League-N Maryam Nawaz of starting a campaign against the judiciary on social media. “It was noted that the social media handles involved in praising the ECP were also seen ridiculing the superior courts. It seems that Maryam Nawaz is leading this campaign,” he alleged.

He was of the firm opinion that a deliberate attempt was being made by the government to target the judiciary after sensing a threat to their NROs (amnesty) from the superior courts. “The judiciary is being pressured to change its stance.”

He observed that the country is facing a constitutional crisis due to the ECP’s reluctance to hold elections within the stipulated period, and said the courts’ orders relating to human rights violations were not being followed by the government.

Fawad Chaudhry said the judiciary’s sole duty is to protect the rights of people and it should not remain silent on such matters. He also called for legal action against the Chief Election Commissioner and the governors of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for not holding the elections immediately. He also requested President Arif Alvi to initiate a constitutional process against the two governors for “blatantly violating the Constitution”.

About his party’s ‘jail bharo movement’, he said that the registration process had been completed and the movement could be launched on 24 hours’ notice.

Hammad Azhar condemned the government for taking action against former federal finance minister Shaukat Tarin. “What was Tarin’s crime? He is now being blamed for the economic mess made by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and former federal finance minister Miftah Ismail,” he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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