PML-N alleges institutional meddling in Senate vote

Abbasi says PML-N senators are being forced to vote for govt candidate for Senate chairman


Rameez Khan March 11, 2021
PML-N leaders addressing the press conference. SCREENGRAB

LAHORE:

A day before the election for the chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has accused the country’s state institutions of influencing the election process by forcing its senators to vote against the opposition’s candidate.

Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi told a press conference in Islamabad that the officials of an agency had once again started pressurising PML-N senators to change their loyalties and vote for the government candidates.

Besides PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal and party spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, Abbassi was also accompanied by Senator Hafiz Abdul Kareem. The party claimed Kareem was contacted by two members of the intelligence agency, who asked him to either abstain from the voting or vote against the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) candidate, Yusuf Raza Gilani.

Abassi claimed that there were many other senators who had received similar calls. However, he added that the PML-N did not want to name the individual officers, because “they were only following instructions”.

“However, this practice of influencing voters through the state institutions needs to be exposed, condemned and eliminated,” the senior vice president of the PML-N said.

The Senate elections used to be a smooth process in Pakistan but all that changed in 2018 when a clear majority of the PML-N was overturned to install a chairman, who wasn’t even represented by any party at that time, Abbasi said. Since then, he added, the pushing and pulling of senators “through blackmail and other means” has taken over the Senate elections.

Speaking at the press conference, Hafiz Abdul Kareem said that ever since the schedule for the Senate elections was announced, he had been implicated in fictitious cases. Most recently, he claimed, his name was wrongly added to an old first information report (FIR).

Kareem said he was called multiple times this month by two people to coerce him into voting for the government’s candidates. He added that he told the officials that his conscience did not allow him to vote for a party that has destroyed the country’s economy.

When asked that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which is part of the PDM, had been used by the agencies in the past, Ashan Iqbal replied that the true change would only come “when our state institutions would become honest”. The problem, Iqbal said, “is that our state institutions are not playing an impartial role”.

He said that the powers who installed this “selected disaster” on Pakistan should open their eyes and see the economic, socioeconomic indicators, foreign policy disasters, the loss of occupied Kashmir and the nose-diving of every other sector.

Earlier in the day Maryam Nawaz also tweeted the allegation that her party members were being called to ask them not to vote for the party candidate. She said that some of her party candidates have also recorded such calls as evidence.

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