Workers and supporters of the PTI, responding to the call of their party chief Imran Khan, on Tuesday staged protests outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) office to denounce the body’s decision to appoint Mohsin Naqvi as Punjab caretaker chief minister.
A large number of people holding placards, banners and party flags assembled in front of the commission’s building in the provincial capital, picketing it to condemn the commission’s alleged biased decision that favoured PTI's archrival PML-N.
A number of party leaders, including Shafqat Mahmood, Hammad Azhar, Yasmin Rashid and Azam Swati addressed the protestors.
A day earlier, PTI Chairman Imran Khan had announced that the party would stage protests throughout the country against Naqvi’s appointment, calling the new appointee “an enemy of PTI”.
“We will not accept a ‘corrupt’ person as an interim chief minister. We will hold a series of protests in all the cities of Pakistan,” the PTI chief told a news conference via a video link on Monday.
The Election Commission of Pakistan had on Sunday appointed Naqvi the caretaker chief minister for a 90-day interim period – a decision that drew vehement criticism from PTI and its key ally PML-Q who had already forewarned that any ‘controversial’ appointment would be challenged in the court.
Smelling a rat in the election watchdog’s decision, the PTI-PML-Q alliance unanimously stated that they would knock on the doors of the court and take to the streets against the decision.
Addressing the crowd during Tuesday’s protest rally, PTI senior leader Shafqat Mahmood lashed out at Mohsin Naqvi over his alleged pro-government leanings, recalling that PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari used to consider him as his “child”.
“They want to run away from the elections and steal the mandate of people,” Shafqat alleged and asserted that, “We will not let them take away the people's mandate”.
Meanwhile, PTI leader and former energy minister Hammad Azhar echoed party chief Imran Khan’s allegations regarding Naqvi’s hand in his ouster, alleging that the man was the main character in the “regime change operation” orchestrated to topple Imran last April.
He went on to warn that the brewing discontent among the masses could tip over into full-blown revolution and “Zardari’s son cannot stave off that”. “The nation stands an inch away from the revolution.”
“And Zardari’s children like Mohsin Naqvi cannot avert the revolution,” he added.
Denouncing ECP’s decision, senior minister Mian Aslam Iqbal demanded that the election watchdog remove “the person foisted upon the province” immediately.
PTI to stick to its guns
In line with its resolve to up the ante against the ECP's decision, the PTI has also decided to continue agitation against the appointment of Mohsin Naqvi as interim chief minister and other controversial measures of the election commission.
The decision was taken during a meeting under PTI chief Imran Khan on Tuesday, which was attended by the former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, PTI Secretary General Asad Umer and Fawad Chaudhry, Senator Azam Swati and Hammad Azhar.
Elahi apprised Imran and other leaders of his proposals regarding future political affairs.
The meeting deliberated upon constitutional options available to counter these measures.
In this regard, views were exchanged in detail to approach superior judiciary and political options.
Meeting participants expressed concern over about election date not yet being given in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the uprooting of bureaucracy in Punjab.
While criticising the ECP's conduct, leaders condemned the massive uprooting of bureaucracy and took notice of the alleged directives issued to clamp down on PTI’s agitation.
The meeting was told that orders had been given to deploy officers that unleashed an aggressive crackdown on PTI protestors during the party’s rally last year’s May 25.
Similarly, the process of arresting people and whisking them away from their homes has also been kicked off.
The participants of the meeting bemoaned the “partisan” conduct of ECP and stated that the body had failed to discharge its responsibility impartially.
The party also reaffirmed its resolve to challenge the decision of appointing a “controversial person” to the office in the courts.
“By refusing to give a date for elections, a constitutional responsibility was being violated, the most controversial officers and officers known for their antipathy against PTI were being posted on key posts,” the participants of the meeting were quoted as saying.
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