Gillani believes the establishment is ‘totally neutral’

Former premier says 'every member of the parliament is getting respect because of my candidacy'

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Yousuf Raza Gillani, who is also the joint candidate of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) in the upcoming Senate elections, said on Monday that he believes that the establishment is “totally neutral”.

In reply to a question from the media after visiting the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief , the former PM said: “I am not Khan sahib’s spokesperson. But it seems like the establishment is totally neutral.” In comparison, other leaders of the PDM such as JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader Nawaz Sharif have repeatedly accused the army of interfering in political matters.

PDM President and JUI-F chief Fazl met with former premier Gillani on Monday and both the leaders discussed the alliance’s chances in the National Assembly (NA).

The alliance plans to field Gillani as joint candidate of the PDM as chairman of Senate. However, sources in the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) say that the ruling coalition is comfortable with its numbers game and believe that the incumbent Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani would defeat any PDM nominee.

After the meeting, the JUI-F chief told media persons that the PDM is united in support of Gillani. He went on to claim that the PDM has 12 votes more than the required strength to win the Senate seat from the federal capital – a claim that the ruling alliance may challenge in the coming days. Fazl purported that, ever since the announcement of the former premier’s nomination, there has been panic in the government circles.

“The government is showing distrust and fear in its ranks. Gillani has also been our prime minister and, if he is elected as a senator, it will be a matter of honour for him. PDM stands united to support Gillani and we will fight this battle successfully,” asserted Fazl.

Gillani told the media that he was indebted to the PDM leadership for putting its trust in him and that he would try to meet their expectations.

The ex-PM recalled that he had been elected unopposed in 2008 to the NA, adding that even today he had kicked off his campaign with the same unanimous support from the PDM. He said that his win would be a victory of the democratic forces.

He said that he had amassed 264 votes while his opponent received 42, following which the opposition agreed to cast a vote of confidence in Gillani’s favour.

“I want to say that every member of the parliament is getting respect because of my candidacy. I would go to each and every PDM leader who are supporting me more than myself,” he said on the occasion.

PTI last week challenged the nomination of the former premier for Senate.

Fareed Rehman, a PTI Senate hopeful from Islamabad, had accused Gillani of concealing the facts in the papers. Gillani, he had said, failed to mention his conviction in a contempt of court case back in 2012.

His petition had noted that Gillani doesn’t fulfill the requirements of Article-62 of the Constitution.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday last had rejected the objection raised by the ruling PTI on the nomination of the former prime minister and had accepted his papers for the March 3 elections.

Returning Officer (RO) Zafar Iqbal had announced the verdict reserved earlier after both sides completed their arguments.

The verdict had observed while Gillani was convicted — in 2012 — under Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution and “a period of five years has elapsed since his conviction”, he “stands qualified” for contesting election to the Senate from Islamabad.

“All the cases against the candidate are pending adjudication and in the absence of conviction, the candidate cannot be barred from contesting the election,” it had read.

“Keeping these facts in view, the nomination papers Gillani are hereby accepted,” it had added.

Embroiled in controversy over the presidential ordinance on open voting, the ECP is set to hold elections on March 3.

A total of 52 senators in the House of 104 are set to retire on March 11 on completion of their six-year term. The number includes four of the eight senators from the erstwhile Federally Adminis­tered Tribal Areas (FATA).

As the seats representing FATA will not be filled due to the merger of the tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in May 2018, the Senate strength will shrink to 100.

Polling will, therefore, be held to elect 48 members: 12 each from KP and Balochistan, 11 each from Punjab and Sindh, and two from Islamabad.

The legislators will also vote to elect seven members on general seats including two women and two technocrats in the four provinces. Besides, the election on one minority seat each in KP and Balochistan will also be conducted.

More than 65 per cent of the senators due to retire belong to the opposition parties.

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