LAHORE: Prominent academics have called on the caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab Hasan Askari Rizvi to resign from his position if he’s unable to create a level playing field for all political parties and hold fair elections.
In a joint letter to the caretaker government on Thursday, the academics expressed concerns “at the appalling coercive actions of Government of Punjab against the workers and supporters of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ahead of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s arrival” to Lahore on July 13.
They condemned the arrest of ‘hundreds of party workers’ who wanted to welcome the PML-N supreme who is convicted and now jailed in Avenfield corruption reference.
Moreover, they highlighted the increase in “reported incidents of intimidation, harassment, and blackmail of the party’s electoral candidates by military intelligence agencies”.
“Your administration has not taken any concrete action against the perpetrators… there can be no free elections in the country’s prime electoral battleground of Punjab under the current climate of coercion, discrimination, and intimidation of the candidates of specific political parties,” they added.
The scholars urged the caretakers to end the crackdown against a particular party, immediate release of political prisoners, lifting of the ban on holding rallies, and cease and desist order to intelligence agencies interfering in the pre-election process. All candidates and parties should have a level playing field, they argued.
These academics include Pervez Hoodbhoy, Ahmed Rashid, Ayesha Siddiqa, Yaqoob Bangash, Yunus Samad, Tariq Rahman, Rasul Baksh Rais, among others.