LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: In a move that has been a long time in the making, the main opposition party – the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – has demanded that the government call snap elections.
Citing ‘rampant corruption and fluid security situation’ in the country, PML-N President Nawaz Sharif made the demand in an interview with a television channel on Wednesday. The next general elections are due in 2013.
In a veiled threat to the coalition government, led by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Sharif ‘advised’ Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to dissolve federal and provincial legislatures and call fresh elections or else his party would have no option but to stage a ‘long march’.
“We will not hesitate to stage a long march for people’s rights. I urge the people to support our cause to rid the country of corruption,” said Sharif who indicated a day earlier that his party would mobilise the people against the government.
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Sharif had led a successful ‘long march’ in March 2009 for the reinstatement of dozens of judges of the superior judiciary sacked by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf. Citing reasons for his demand for fresh elections, the PML-N chief said that corruption is rampant, security situation is deteriorating, electricity crisis is snowballing and unemployment is increasing.
“The government has miserably failed to overcome these problems,” he said and advised the government to concede its failure and step down.
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Sharif said that he had spoken to President Asif Ali Zardari on his demand for fresh elections four months ago. Though he demanded fresh elections, Sharif ruled out an ‘unconstitutional’ method for toppling the government. “Only Pakistani people have the right to send the government packing,” he added.
Calling the alliance between the PPP and PML-Q as ‘marriage of interest’, the PML-N supremo said that the two parties were flouting the Supreme Court rulings to hide their ill-practices.
Sharif said that his party had joined the PPP-led coalition following the 2008 elections for ‘greater good’ of the country. “Our party had to face scathing media criticism for siding with the government but we persevered,” he said, adding that the PML-N pulled out of the coalition.
It is the first time Sharif made an unequivocal demand for fresh elections. Earlier the second tier leaders of his party were making muted demands for snap polls.
The PPP moved quickly to brush aside the possibility of fresh elections. Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khosa, who belongs to the PPP, called it an ‘immature demand’ which the PML-N chief has made for ‘public consumption’.
“The PML-N failed to hold local bodies’ elections in Punjab where it is in power… Under such situation the demand for general elections is nothing more than a political stunt,” Khosa told the media at a function.
Political analysts believe that the PML-N can make a decisive move for early general elections before the Senate elections due in March next year. Under the present political setup, the PPP would get a majority in the upper house of parliament as it would get the biggest chunk of seats which would fall vacant following the retirement of 50 per cent senators next year.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2011.
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