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ISLAMABAD: What appears to be a hard-hitting outburst, although, in the form of official communication, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has lambasted the “blatantly partisan nature” of the letter written to him by President Arif Alvi, which, he says, “in parts reads like a press release of the opposition political party, i.e., the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)”.

“I am constrained to express, at the outset, my disappointment at the blatantly partisan nature of your letter, which in parts reads like a press release of the opposition political party, i.e., the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) whose one-sided, anti-government views you continue to openly espouse, notwithstanding your constitutional oath/ office of president,” the PM stated in his letter, Sunday, in response to President’s Alvi’s letter written to him two days back, on Friday.

“It is a matter of record that previously also you have acted in a similar partisan manner on several occasions in violation of your oath,” Sharif stated.

Alvi expresses his disquiet at election delay

In this regard, he accused the president of dissolving the National Assembly in April last year and refusing to administer oath to Sharif when he was elected as PM in the same month.

The PM, in his letter, impliedly refused to play any role for the conduct of timely general elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa— saying it is “ultimately the ECP’s decision to assess whether the circumstances are conducive for organising and conducting free and fair elections.”

Addressing the president, the PM stated that he was not answerable to the former. “Mr. President, the constitution does not vest any powers in or assigns any functions to the president whereby the president can seek explanation from the government or the prime minister. The only reason I am responding to your letter is because I want to bring your partisan attitude and actions on record and to set the record of our government straight.”

Sharif continued, “At the behest of the PTI, you gave dates for the general elections to the provincial assemblies of the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Yet again, your decision to give date for the elections to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, which was dissolved by the order of the governor, was set aside by the Supreme Court vide its order dated March 1, 2023 — You have not raised any concerns on the malafide dissolution of the provincial assemblies of the two provinces, that too at the behest of and to satisfy the ego of the chairman PTI.

The two provincial assemblies have been dissolved not for any constitutional or legal objective but to blackmail the governments in the centre and the other two provinces with sole objective of forcing them to dissolve the national and the other two provincial assemblies.”

The PM, in his letter to the president, further added, “You have not taken note of the effect of conducting elections to these two provinces prior to the general elections to the National Assembly in as much as, organising and conducting free and fair elections under clause (3) of Article 218 may not be possible with elected provincial governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This constitutional distortion has completely escaped your attention, which is quite saddening, given the role of the head of the state that the constitution assigns to the president.”

PM Sharif said that the ECP had announced October 8, 2023 to be the new date for the polls in Punjab “after taking into account the ground realities.

All federal and provincial governmental authorities furnished the relevant information to the ECP. Being the constitutional body charged with the duty to organise and conduct elections, it is ultimately the ECP’s decision to assess whether the circumstances are conducive for organising and conducting free and fair elections, as required under clause (3) of Article 218.”

In the letter, PM Sharif also accused the president of not raising his voice against what he said were serious human rights violations and framing of political opponents in false cases when PTI was in power.

He also criticised the president for not uttering “even a single word regarding the conduct of Mr. Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi, Chairman, PTI on his actions in response to lawfully issued court orders for his appearance in criminal proceedings. May I also add, never in our history have we ever witnessed such aggressive, rather militant, attitude of a political order in complete defiance of court orders.”

Earlier, Friday, President Alvi wrote to PM Sharif, drawing the latter’s attention “towards the seriousness of these incidents of human rights violations, atrocities of police/ law enforcement agencies and grossly disproportionate use of force against the citizens of Pakistan. Multiple fake and frivolous cases have been registered against politicians, workers, journalists and media persons.

Houses of political workers have been raided and citizens abducted without warrants and lawful justification. The incidents of human rights violations and oppression by state machinery against innocent citizens are in clear breach and violations of fundamental rights guaranteed by Article 4 of the constitution that provides for, and guarantees citizens to enjoy the protection of law and to be treated in accordance with the law.”

The president pointed out in the letter that in World Press Freedom Index of 2021, Pakistan ranked 145 out of 180 countries and dropped to 157— 12 points downwards— in the World

Press Freedom Index 2022, “which reflects sorry state of affairs and this year’s actions and images thereof will further exacerbate our already dismal ranking.”

Alvi emphasised on Sharif that all concerned executive authorities of federal and provincial governments should be directed to refrain from abuse of human rights and also to assist the ECP to hold general elections in provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, within the timeframe in compliance of Supreme Court’s order dated March 1, 2023, to “avoid further complications including contempt of court.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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