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ISLAMABAD: The 12-party coalition government on Monday came under severe criticism from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) over its “deliberate” attempts to delay the elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in connivance with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) despite the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s verdict for holding timely elections.

As PTI senators led by the opposition leader in Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem attended the joint sitting of parliament after a hiatus of one year, brought Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led (PML-N) ruling coalition to its knees as it kept challenging every “undemocratic and unconstitutional” step being taken by the government to delay the polls in the two provinces.

As the joint session chaired by National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf resumed its session, Dr Waseem, took the floor and questioned: under which law, under which democracy – anywhere in the world – politicians resorted to undemocratic and unconstitutional tactics to avoid elections.

He continued that there is a clear-cut ruling of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to hold timely elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa elections but the ruling government in connivance with the ECP “rejected” the apex court’s schedule for the elections and announced a new date.

“The ECP rejected the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s verdict of holding elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in the dark of the night. I want to ask in which democracy things like this happen which we are witnessing in this country,” he questioned.

He said that the ECP also blamed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the poll’s delay, but it promptly rejected its allegations, adding the ECP also took the plea that elections could not be held as there are security issues.

“We’ve seen the martyrdom of late Benazir Bhutto. The country also witnessed military offensive against militants like operation Raddul Fasad, and Zarb-e-Azb, but elections never got postponed on flimsy ground which the ECP has put forth this time around,” he lamented.

He said that the devastating earthquake in Turkey did not put its elections into turmoil which is due to a democratic approach in these countries where politicians do not run away from facing the people in the elections.

“Just like a believer does not get frightened of death, a politician should not get scared of elections,” he added.

However, after an exchange of loud sloganeering and consequent ruckus between the treasury and opposition benches, the NA speaker adjourned the joint sitting till 11am on April 10.

At the outset of the session, the PTI senators entered Parliament House while protesting, and raising anti-government slogans like “laathi goli ki sarkar nahi chalaygi”, “Imran teray jannisar, beshumar, beshumar” and “Zulmke ke zaabtay hum nahi maantay”.

Dr Waseem said this was the first time that the PTI senators had attended the joint session of the parliament. “Our members will discuss national issues,” the PTI senator stated.

He claimed the Constitution has been violated, adding a huge responsibility must be placed on the ECP as it has rejected the apex court’s verdict which is in no way acceptable.

He said that the commission did not need directions from anybody; it had been directed by the Supreme Court to hold elections; however, it made an announcement at midnight and delayed the exercise.

The PTI leader further said the National Assembly has been incomplete for a long time and should be completed in a legal and constitutional way as soon as possible. Dr Waseem said that in the history of nations, some days are important and serve as milestones.

Later, the media representatives walked out from the press gallery in protest.

PML-N’s Murtaza Javed Abbasi said the journalists had legitimate demands that should be fulfilled.

The law minister and interior minister did not take action against the violence on media representatives outside the high court, the lawmaker said.

Expressing his views, Minister for Communications Asad Mahmood said they ousted the PTI government, and would never let it come into power again.

He claimed that the establishment also expressed its no-confidence in the PTI and said it could not run the country, adding the ruling alliance had been formed to ensure free and transparent elections. The JUI-F cleric said that the government could not interfere in the affairs of the ECP, adding if the parliamentary committees could summon the army chief, it can also call judges.

He claimed that the decisions of some judges including former chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar created political instability in the country.

He further challenged the PTI to organise a rally without music. He remarked that the party holds its gatherings “through women and music”.

These remarks elicited a strong protest and a hue and cry by the PTI members in the house.

The minister then called former prime minister Imran Khan a “foreign agent” which the enemies of the country still “miss”, adding “Zalmay Khalilzad did not see Dr Aafia, but he only sees Imran Khan.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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