ECP responds to PDM’s allegations, says fully aware of its constitutional responsibilities

Opp leaders claim ECP 'held back' elections results in 2018 to ensure their defeat; special control room monitors ground situation; Bilawal skips protest

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday, while responding to a protest demonstration staged by the PDM outside its office, said that the election body was fully aware of its constitutional responsibilities.

“We are committed to fulfilling our responsibilities without succumbing to any pressures,” the ECP said in a handout issued on Tuesday as opposition parties gathered outside its Islamabad office to protest against a delay in the investigations of the foreign funding case against the ruling party.

It said that the election commission is ready to hold free and fair polls at any time.
The election commission further rejected the allegations of slow progress in the foreign funding case and said that it had made considerable progress in the case.

“We have further directed the scrutiny committee to hold its proceedings into the case thrice in a week,” the handout read.

Earlier, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz, while addressing a protest outside the ECP, that is pursuing a seven-year-old petition accusing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of receiving foreign funding during years leading to and after the 2013 election, said that the opposition parties had gathered to remind the regulatory body of its “constitutional obligations.”

Questioning the “unacceptable” delay in the trial, which is set to resume tomorrow (Wednesday), Maryam sought to remind the chief election commissioner, Sikandar Sultan Raja, of the “constitutional” position of his office.

“This [ECP] is the institution that the Constitution has made responsible for honoruing the public vote and this is the institution that had to get respect for the public vote,” she added.

Her address is part of the protest, organised by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), being held outside the offices of the election commission to question the delay in the probe that has dragged on throughout the tenure of deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the two-and-a-half years of the incumbent setup without a verdict.

As the trial gained pace, the scrutiny committee of the commission last week summoned both the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the PML-N, directing them to submit their respective records of funds collected through foreign sources.

Maryam, in a passionate speech, termed the trial the “biggest fraud in Pakistan’s history.” She claimed while the graft cases against her father were expedited and decided within days, the commission had “only held 70 hearings” of the PTI case since 2014.

“Today the PDM and public ask you,” Maryam questioned, addressing Prime Minister Imran Khan, “if you did not steal, then why did you try to stop the case 30 times.” She further claimed the prime minister had submitted six requests in the court, saying the ECP could not decide this case.

“ECP formed a committee called the scrutiny committee whose job was to investigate and place results in front of the people but when the probe was started, the list of crimes was so long that it was told to be lenient on [the PTI] and the committee then became obedient of Imran Khan and ECP,” she said.

The PML-N leader said that the case against the PTI could be decided within three days, “but they have been sitting like a snake on top of it for seven years.”

“If you were so innocent why did you give applications to keep the proceedings secret?” she said, referring to the PTI. “This means theft took place, and massive theft was done.”

She alleged that Prime Minister Imran Khan had received funding from Israel and India.

Addressing the rally, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that the incumbent rulers will not find a way to escape when the PDM will launch its long march against them.

“Those in power selected an ineligible person for the top slot and imposed him on the masses,” he alleged. “Those elements had the sole agenda of appointing him so they could progress with their plans.”

This government doesn’t know how to run the country or its economy, and it is completely devoid of such abilities, he alleged. Fazl further said, “the incumbent rulers took foreign funds to come into power,” adding, “Today’s protest is only a glimpse of what will be happening later.”

The JUI-F chief also announced a ‘large protest’ at Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh on February 5 against the PTI-led government on the sidelines of the rallies in support of Kashmiris.

“If the ECP still decides to support an ineligible government and its team, then we cannot have faith in the authority in the future.”

“We will continue to protest against this government until its dismissed,” he remarked.

Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) chief Akhtar Mengal, a former ally of the PTI-led government, said that the nation wants supremacy of the Constitution.  “The people want the supremacy of the Constitution — which this country stands on,” Mengal said.

The BNP-M chief, talking about the country’s progress, said that Pakistan would not be able to move forward unless equal rights are ensured to the people.

ECP ‘HELD BACK’ ELECTION RESULTS:

Addressing the protestors, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUI-P) leader Owais Noorani said the entire nation was “anxious” the case was not being decided even after seven years.

The participants of the protest, he said, were demanding “accountability” from the commission, which he accused of “holding back” election results in 2018 after the end of polling to allegedly ensure the opposition’s defeat.

PROTEST:

The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) held a protest outside the office of the ECP.

The case, filed in November 2014 by a founding member of the PTI party, Akbar S Babar, claims the party received funds from dubious, prohibited, illegal, and undeclared sources.

Ahead of the protest, more than a thousand security officials, including police and Rangers, were deployed outside the headquarters of the commission.

All entry and exit points leading to the Red Zone that houses many government buildings including the residence of the prime minister and the president were also sealed, police said.

Meanwhile, PML-N VP Maryam, BNP-M President Mengal, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai and PPP Senator Sherry Rehman reached the residence of PDM President Fazl where they held a discussion on the arrangements for the protest and the security situation.

Other PML-N leaders including former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, Maryam’s husband Capt (r) Safdar Awan and Khurram Dastagir also participated in the discussion.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had decided to skip the protest to attend his “scheduled engagements” in Umerkot.

Meanwhile, Minister for Information and Broadcast Senator Shibli Faraz said that the government had not placed any obstacles for the opposition’s protest.

“The smooth flow of traffic on the capital’s highways is proof of the premier’s pro-democratic mindset. The nation has not forgotten when the PML-N government targeted PTI protesters during a peaceful demonstration,” he tweeted.

‘SELECTED JUSTICE’:

Fazl, while addressing reporters a day earlier, had said that Prime Minister Imran Khan was the central character in the case, which he said was the “biggest scandal in Pakistan’s political history”.

“The PDM leadership will enthusiastically stage a protest demonstration in front of the Election Commission regarding the foreign funding case,” he had said.

The PDM president had accused the premier of having used the illegally obtained money for election rigging and said that PM Imran took “the mother of NROs” to create political instability in Pakistan and “used funds collected in the name of charity for personal business and spreading chaos, illegally and through secret accounts”.

“We will demand the ECP to immediately give a decision on the crime which has been accepted,” he had said.

He had also said that the constant delays were giving rise to even more doubts and suspicions. He had further said that in the case of deposed premier Nawaz Sharif, the decision had been reached in only six months, while this case had been pending for six years.

“What kind of justice is this?” he had asked.

The PDM chief had appealed to the public to participate in the protest for the sake of “national security” and against “obtaining funds from anti-Pakistan lobbies”.

While accusing the incumbent government of selling away Kashmir, he had said that on Kashmir Day, the anti-government alliance would hold a rally in Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh where political parties from Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) have also been invited.

He had said that rallies would also be held in Hyderabad on February 9, in Sialkot on February 13, in Balochistan’s Pishin on February 16, in Sardogha on February 23, in Khuzdar on February 27.

Following the scheduled public meetings, the PDM would take a decision about staging a long march to Islamabad, Fazl had added.

CONTROL ROOM TO MONITOR PROTEST:

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior established a control room to monitor the protest.

Reportedly, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad was personally monitoring the situation on the ground.

Rasheed visited the control room along with Interior Secretary Yousuf Naseem Khokhar and reviewed the situation.

He said that the law and order of the capital would be monitored from the control room and all entry and exit points would be closely monitored through CCTV cameras.

The minister said that the government had permitted the protest, a development he said was first of its kind.

Later, he visited the commission’s headquarters to review the security arrangements. He directed police for foolproof security to avoid any untoward incident.

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