Shehbaz throws down gauntlet to PTI govt over ‘rigged elections’


By Rameez Khan

While accusing the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led federal government of ill governance just weeks after its formation, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has threatened to disrupt the parliamentary proceedings until formation of a commission to probe alleged rigging in July 25 polls.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan on August 17 assured (lawmakers) in the National Assembly of forming a parliamentary commission to probe into allegations of rigging and said he would announce it in the house.

“However, three weeks have passed but no commission has been formed. If they did not fulfil their promise, the opposition parties will not let the house proceeding run,” PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif said on Saturday in a press conference.

Shehbaz, who is also the opposition leader in NA, said they want a commission with complete authority to probe into the election and do its forensic audit, adding that the commission should have members from all political parties.

“We hope that this does not turn out to be another of his (Imran Khan’s) U-turns. We will get this commission formed and make its findings public. We will ensure that such rigging does not happen in future,” he said.

Referring to the cases against incarcerated former PM Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz, Shehbaz accused the new government of resorting of victimising political opponents. He also lambasted the government for not giving as warm a welcome to the visiting Chinese delegation as it gave to a Saudi delegation.

“If the Saudi delegation which was led by the kingdom’s Information Minister Dr Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad could be received by his counterpart, Fawad Chaudhry, then Chinese delegation, led by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, should also have been received by his counterpart [Shah Mehmood Qureshi].”

He said there are no two opinions on the warmth of relation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia but China is also a true and honest friend of Pakistan which deserves to be respected highly.

“China has always been there for Pakistan at every difficult juncture. The government should also have given a warm welcome to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Why these different standards? Why not to adopt a same policy?” He added.

Shehbaz also chastised the government for increasing gas, electricity and urea prices. He said the increase in gas prices is unprecedented and would not only adversely affect the industrial user but also the domestic user.

Similarly, the government not only ended the subsidy given on electricity but also increased electricity prices when it was not needed. The PML-N in its tenure had ended the electricity crisis by adding power plants run on gas LNG, solar, and wind,” he added.

He said the new government has also rolled back the laptop programme and is also considering rolling back Daanish school programme. He said both these projects are for the children of the poor. The new government has undone in just 20 days what the PML-N government had done for have-nots in five years.

Talking with regard to the PM’s appeal to donate for Daimer-Bhasha Dam, Shehbaz said Imran does not need to collect funds for generation of electricity. He can just call in bids from international companies, and many will be happy to invest in this project.

“Imran should have told the people of Pakistan that the government, under [former premier] Nawaz Sharif, had already spent Rs122 billion on this project – for purchase of land and for feasibility study of the project,” he added.

He also criticised the government for its “drama of austerity”. He said the PTI government, instead of auctioning vehicles and doing austerity drive, should focus on providing people with jobs and houses.

He also demanded that Imran prove his allegation that he [Shehbaz] offered him Rs10 billion to keep mum over the Panama Papers issue. He said Imran, who now is in power, should prove that the cost of Lahore metro was Rs70 billion or above, “not Rs30 billion”.

Govt’s response

Responding to Shehbaz’s press conference, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry said the government is ready to constitute a commission to probe the alleged rigging in the general election, according to opposition’s demand.

“The opposition has so far failed to elaborate the nature of the rigging allegations. Also the opposition has not yet submitted Terms of Reference (TORs) to probe the alleged rigging charges.

“The opposition is using the issue of election rigging as a political stunt that too without producing any concrete evidence in this regard. The opposition should better present concrete proposals to probe the alleged rigging,” he added.

Chaudhry said PTI Senator Azam Khan Swati has done a commendable job regarding inefficiency of Result Transmission System (RTS), developed by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA).

Denying opposition’s allegations of curtailing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, he said the government would complete all CPEC projects besides ensuring transparency and effectiveness.

Regarding increase in gas, fertilizer and electricity prices, he said the government has not increased their prices. The PML-N government had destroyed the gas, electricity and fertilizer departments, he said, adding that the government was resolving the issue of circular debts.

Strongly denying the allegations of revenge levelled by Shehbaz, he said Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam were convicted and sent to Adiala Jail during the government of his own party, adding that accusations of leader of the opposition were surprising and astonishing.

“Sharif and Maryam are facing corruption allegations as they could not prove the source of their income and assets. Nobody had ever made such whooping money in such a short period of time.”courtesy The Express Tribune