PDM protesting to remind ECP of ‘constitutional obligations’: Maryam

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

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz, while addressing a protest outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (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.

Today, 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.”

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.

In his remarks, Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) President Sardar Akhtar Mengal said the PDM was asking “supremacy of the Constitution” and its supporters had gathered today “to get the Constitution implemented on which the country is standing”.

PROTEST:

The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) is holding a protest outside the offices 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 Akhtar Mengal, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai and PPP Senator Sherry Rehman reached the residence of PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman 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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