Accusations of dirty tricks raised their ugly head on Tuesday – the eve of Senate elections -- as several media reports highlighted what the candidates and their supporters have up their sleeves to win a seat in the upper house of parliament by hook or by crook.
Tuesday should have been a quiet day, as the canvassing for the Wednesday’s (today) election ended at midnight Monday. On the contrary, TV channels had a field day on Tuesday, airing a video of advice for cancelling vote, a Sindh lawmaker whisked away from the assembly premises, and a WhatsApp chat purportedly aimed at buying vote.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was up in arms, after Ali Haider Gilani, son of Yusuf Raza Gilani, an opposition candidate from Islamabad, was explaining to lawmakers how to cancel their votes in a video aired by a TV channel.
In his presser later, Ali Haider admitted that the video was true, and said that the National Assembly member (MNA) in the video belonged to the PTI. The government immediately cried foul, demanding of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to declare Gilani as ineligible.
Gilani, a former prime minister, is standing against Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh in the highest profile contest of the Senate election 2021. In the one-and-half minutes video, Gilani’s son could be heard talking to at least two lawmakers, according to a private TV channel.
Later in the day, while addressing a press conference along with Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MNA Shazia Marri, Ali Haider Gillani accepted that he had met with the PTI lawmakers “last week” to discuss things related to Senate polls.
Read more: Video scandal may implicate PTI’s bigwigs
Addressing a press conference outside the ECP offices in Islamabad, Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that after Ali Haider’s “confession” it was the ECP’s responsibility to declare Gilani as ineligible for contesting the election.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill also backed the demand for Gilani’s ineligibility. It is evident now, he said, how Ali Haider was buying lawmakers to garner support for his father’s Senate seat, Gill added.
The PTI also moved the ECP for Gilani’s disqualification from the Senate election. It said that Gilani committed a violation of the Election Act 2017. In a statement, the ECP, however, said it had taken notice of the video and the matter would be investigated on merit.
Amid uproar from the PTI, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari came to the rescue of the Gilanis, saying that attempts were being made by the government to give wrong impression that the opposition was involved in corrupt practices.
“In reality, Prime Minister Imran Khan is using state's money to bribe people,” he claimed in a news conference flanked by Gilani on Tuesday night. "On the video issue, I would say that PPP is contesting the [Senate] elections in a democratic manner. If money is being used in elections, then it is the government which is using it," Bilawal said, urging the government to "control" its members.
Speaking on the occasion, former prime minister Gilani said that it was the opposition's right to ask the members to vote for him. "We had even written a letter to Imran Khan... you (Imran) should control your members [from indulging in corrupt practices]," he added.
At the press conference, Shehbaz Gill also reflected on what happened earlier in the day in the Sindh Assembly where a PTI provincial lawmaker, Karim Bakhsh Gabol, was seen claiming that attempts had been made by the PPP to kidnap him.
Several media reports showed that the Sindh Assembly turning into a battleground after lawmakers belonging to the PTI and the PPP got into a physical brawl over the disgruntled PTI MPA, who was eventually taken away from the assembly premises by fellow party lawmakers.
After a brief fight on the floor of the house, the PTI members managed to whisk away Gabol – who had announced the other day that he would not be voting for his party in the Senate election because his party had given Senate tickets in exchange for money.
TV channels showed that Gabol was approached by fellow PTI MPAs and asked to come with them. After a brief argument, the PTI MPAs tried to take Gabol out at which the PPP MPAs intervened, which led to a scuffle between the rival lawmakers.
In the footage aired by private TV channels, a visibly harassed and confused Gabool was seen saying that he was ‘kidnapped’ by members of PPP. However, the PTI MPAs eventually managed to ‘take Gabol into custody’ and drive him out of the assembly premises.
As if these two dramatic turn of events were not enough, the private TV channel reported a WhatsApp chat purportedly showing how an alleged middleman of a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate was trying to buy PTI lawmaker in the Khyber Pakhtunkha assembly.
The channel claimed that the messages showed that the so-called middleman sent a message that said that they had already finalised a deal with two of the lawmakers and transferred the amount to them. The MPA in the chat was quoted by the channel as saying that he had already conveyed the matter to the PTI leadership.