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Opposition vows to defend election commission – Pakistan

• PPP, ANP leaders meet CEC, pledge support in and outside parliament
• Sherry sees PTI govt on path of collision with ECP, political opponents and media
• ECP reserves verdict on PTI’s plea for perusal of PPP, PML-N funding documents

ISLAMABAD: With the government continuing to fire salvos against the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the opposition on Wednesday announced it would defend the ECP and the Chief Election Commissioner in and outside the parliament.

A delegation of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Awami National Party (ANP) called on Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja to share their concerns over the government’s plan to get the controversial bills seeking to amend the Elections Act bulldozed during the joint session of parliament.

Informed sources told Dawn that members of the delegation also expressed concern over the caustic remarks made by federal ministers against the ECP and CEC.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, former Senate chairman and PPP leader Nayyar Hussain Bukhari said the opposition would support the ECP and the CEC in and outside the parliament.

He said the ministers should not have uttered such remarks that were contemptuous in nature against the ECP. The conduct of elections under the Constitution was the responsibility of the ECP, he added.

PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman warned against any attempts to bulldoze legislation through joint session of the parliament for the use of electronic voting machines in next general elections.

Describing government’s insistence to introduce voting machines in haste as ‘preparation for pre-poll rigging’, the senator said efforts were under way to deny level-playing field to the political opponents. She warned the government against the move, saying that polls under such circumstances would have no legitimacy.

She was of the opinion that voting machines would violate privacy of voters.

‘Govt on path of collision’

In a sharp contrast to what leaders of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) were stating on International Democracy Day, the incumbent government in reality was on path of collision with institutions, political parties and media, she said.

The PPP parliamentary leader said ECP’s objections were valid. The ECP was an important stakeholder in elections and attempts by leaders of the ruling party to make it controversial were unfortunate, she said.

Verdict reserved

Separately, the ECP reserved verdict on plea filed by the PTI seeking ‘meaningful’ access to the financial documents submitted by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and PPP in foreign funding cases against them.

During the proceedings, PML-N lawyer Jahangir Jadoon argued that the petitioner had failed to provide any proof of foreign funding.

Counsel for Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib sought two more days to go through record of both parties.

The commission will announce the decision on October 11.

Later, talking to the reporters after the hearing, the minister said that the ECP should treat all parties equally. He said there was a need to ensure “transparency in the funds of all parties”.

Holding of fair and transparent elections was ECP’s responsibility, he said before castigating the opposition parties for playing ‘zero’ role in country’s development. He said the two parties had done nothing except money laundering and opening fake bank accounts.

He told the media that Pakistan Democratic Movement, the alliance of some opposition parties, only wanted some NRO-like relief.

Vawda’s disqualification case

Meanwhile, the hearing of petitions seeking disqualification of ex-minister and PTI leader Faisal Vawda was put off till October 11.

At the hearing, the counsel for Mr Vawda argued that the petitions were not maintainable.

Subsequently, the petitioners were asked to submit written reply on the question of maintainability of the petitions.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2021

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