Opposition to register 'token' protest outside ECP tomorrow

PML-N leadership asks senior party leaders to take part


Sardar Sikander August 07, 2018
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz asked its candidates to assemble outside the ECP headquarters in the federal capital at 1pm "to register protest against worst poll rigging of the history", said a statement issued from the PML-N secretariat on Tuesday. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

  ISLAMABAD: Opposition parties will hold its maiden protest against alleged rigging in the recently held general elections outside the Election Commission of Pakistan headquarters today (Wednesday) but they have no plan to resort to agitation or take to the streets, fearing lack of public participation.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz asked its candidates to assemble outside the ECP headquarters in the federal capital at 1pm "to register protest against worst poll rigging of the history", said a statement issued from the PML-N secretariat on Tuesday.

A PML-N senator, requesting anonymity, said the party leadership asked senior party leaders, including those who contested on the PML-N tickets, to gather outside the ECP office while no such instructions have been issued for party workers.

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"You can say that this would be a symbolic gesture — to gather outside the ECP and register a protest," the source said, adding the protesters, including leaders from opposition parties, would make speeches and demand resignation of the senior management of the ECP.

Informal discussions with senior political leaders suggest that smaller opposition groups -- including the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, Awami National Party, Qaumi Watan Party and Pak Sarzameen Party -- wanted street agitation against the poll-rigging but they faced lack of support from two major opposition parties – the PML-N and the Pakistan People's Party.

The PPP has already made it clear that it has no plans to launch any protest on the eve of oath-taking of prime minister. The party is also of the view that it would support protests against alleged poll rigging "inside parliament instead of taking to the streets". Whether the PPP actively participates in today's protest is marked with doubts.

After the ECP headquarters, the opposition parties have plans to hold protests outside the provincial election commission offices in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta but those would be 'token protests' carrying symbolic value, reportedly.

On July 27, two days after the general elections, an All Parties Conference convened by the MMA against alleged rigging in the general polls ended without creating any ripples across the political spectrum of the country.

The event's significance seemed undermined after mainstream political forces like the PPP and others -- including the Grand Democratic Alliance and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement -- announced not to participate in the moot.

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Also, PPP supremo Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari announced that his party would not support detachment from the parliamentary process while urging opposition parties to become part of the democratic and parliamentary process.

Also, PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif made it categorically clear in the APC that his party would not be part of any such move as boycotting parliament or provincial assemblies and the PML-N would discuss the matter at its internal forums before "going for such an extreme step".

On July 30, a meeting of senior leaders from the PML-N, PPP, ANP and MMA decided to form the 'Grand Opposition Alliance' in their campaign against alleged poll-rigging.

The meeting was held against the backdrop of the MMA's announcement to boycott parliament and provincial assemblies.

Reportedly, the leaders of PML-N, PPP and ANP conveyed to MMA Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman that the opposition parties were unanimous against boycotting parliament and provincial assemblies — and that Fazl stood isolated on the matter after Jamaat-e-Islami, which is part of the MMA, decided that its lawmakers-elect would take oath for election to parliament and provincial assemblies.

Fazl conceded to the stance taken by other opposition parties against boycotting parliament and provincial assemblies.

On August 2, the opposition parties held a second session of the APC that too ended without devising any concrete plan or forging a practicable strategy to deal with the political challenges posed by the rise of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and its coalition partners in the recently held general elections.

On August 3, the opposition parties decided to form 'Pakistan Alliance for Free and Fair Elections' -- a united front of the opposition parties that would deal with the plan to protest against alleged poll rigging in the general polls and field joint candidates for the crucial elections on key slots of the National and Punjab assemblies.

The alliance has so far nominated Shehbaz to contest for premiership and PPP stalwart Khursheed Shah to contest for the NA speakership.

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