–Shehbaz tells multi-party moot PML-N rejects results but needs time to consider boycott of parliament
–Bilawal Bhutto says PPP rejects results but will raise rigging issue inside parliament
–MMA’s Fazl lashes out at establishment over ‘pre-poll rigging’, says all parties except PML-N have decided to boycott parliament
ISLAMABAD: A multi-party conference called to devise a joint strategy over alleged rigging in the General Elections 2018 on Friday rejected the results of the poll, demanding a “transparent re-election”, but the major party objecting to the conduct of the polls – PML-N – is seemingly in two minds over launching a protest movement outside the parliament.
As election results continued to pour in on Friday, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is in a comfortable position to form governments in the Centre and at least two other provinces, excluding Punjab. In Punjab, it’s a tight contest between the erstwhile ruling PML-N and the PTI.
Even though, they have refused to accept the results, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has decided to become part of the parliament while the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is sitting on the fence as its president Shehbaz Sharif has sought time from the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA)-led group to take a decision on whether they will be joining the parliament or not.
In attendance at the APC were PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Senator Sirajul Haq, Sindh Governor Mohammad Zubair, Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman, Azad Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) chairman Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, National Party President Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo and several MMA leaders.
Following the multi-party moot, Fazlur Rehman, flanked by Shehbaz Sharif and other leaders, announced the moot’s decision to reject the electoral result and demanded “transparent re-election”.
FAZL ANNOUNCES BOYCOTT:
Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Fazlur Rehman dubbed the polls “a waste of money and time” as he chided the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for its “poor performance”.
“All parties, except the PML-N, have decided to boycott the elections,” said Fazl after the conference, which Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) did not attend.
A charged Fazl said, “We will not allow democracy to be taken hostage by the ‘establishment’. The forces who believe that everything is under their control would be told that everything is under the control of the people,” he said.
The JUI-F chief said a movement will be started, and protests will be held to demand a re-election, the schedule of which would be decided by a committee within a day or two. The APC will also approach other parties who have concerns over the elections but could not attend Friday’s meeting, he announced.
He said that in spite of approval of Rs20 billion in grant to ECP to hold the polls, the election watchdog failed in its duties. “Are these the elections it [ECP] has conducted,” he thundered, alleging the commission remained a hostage to the army personnel and did not hand over results of the parties’ polling agents.
“We will not allow them [members-elect of the PTI] to enter assemblies. We will see how they run the affairs of the parliament,” he warned.
SHEHBAZ RELUCTANT TO BOYCOTT PARLIAMENT:
Endorsing the announcement of countrywide movement for the democracy, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, however, refused to boycott election results outright, saying he will consult the party leadership first.
“These are worst elections in Pakistan’s history,” the PML-N chief said.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan leader Farooq Sattar reached the APC moot even though MQM-P had announced to boycott the APC.
Speaking about his appearance, Sattar said that he is not in contact with Raabita Committee. “I wasn’t aware of the decision to boycott the APC,” he said.
Responding to this, MQM-Pakistan’s Amir Khan had shared that Farooq Sattar was told to not attend the meeting. “Rabita Committee had made a united decision to not attend APC, he added.
The MQM-Pakistan had reportedly changed its decision at the last moment after a phone call with PTI’s Jahangir Tareen.
PPP REJECTS RESULTS, NOT PARLIAMENT:
The PPP’s presser followed the fiery press conference held by Fazl, Shehbaz and others.
Speaking in Karachi, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari endorsed the demands of the APC, saying the elections were not “transparent”.
Criticising Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sardar Muhammad Raza and the election watchdog’s poor performance, PPP chairman demanded the Raza’s resignation.
Though the PPP endorse APC’s demands, it will not boycott parliament, said Bilawal, adding that he will raise the issue of “rigging” on the floor of the National Assembly. The young PPP leader also advised other parties not to boycott the oath-taking ceremony and contest it in the parliament.
PTI HAS ALREADY OFFERED PROBE:
Commenting on the hue and cry raised by the losing parties over the election result, PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said that PTI Chairman Imran Khan had already offered to assist them in investigating rigging claims.
“FAFEN and EU Observers Mission have declared the election credible. The protesting parties should remember that the ECP chairman and members were appointed by the PML-N and PPP, therefore criticism that the election watchdog favoured PTI is baseless,” he said.
Reacting to Imran Khan’s offer, PML-N leader and former foreign minister Khawaja Asif said the offer was uncalled for because every candidate has a legal right to seek a probe.
The controversy emerged in the wake of PTI’s victory is not surprising as most political parties had alleged lack of playing field, interference of the military establishment among other factors in the run-up to the elections. The army spokesperson, however, has rejected these claims on multiple occasions.