It was in the air since Wednesday.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was incensed by the rescheduling of the presidential election. In its knee-jerk reaction to the Supreme Court decision, the party said on Wednesday it could pull out of the race. And it took the PPP a day to make up its mind.
“We’ve no option but to boycott the election because the Supreme Court did not give us the right to present our point of view,” Senator Raza Rabbani, the PPP’s erstwhile presidential candidate, told a hurriedly-called news conference on Friday.
“Today’s decision is a part of our struggle against the civilian and military dictatorship,” said Rabbani, expressing concern that the presidential election has been rescheduled, even though the Election Commission of Pakistan was an independent body.
According to Rabbani, presenting the election schedule was the ECP’s and not the Supreme Court’s job. The Commission had earlier refused to reschedule the election on the request of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). “After the 18th constitutional amendment, we expected the ECP would be free and fair, but time has again proved that it is no more a free institution,” he added.
Senator Rabbani claimed that the PPP had accepted the May 11 election results to ensure the continuation of democracy in the country, and that this boycott, too, was a part of the struggle against anti-democratic forces. It is unfair, he said, that not all parties are being heard, and decisions are being taken solely on PML-N’s bidding.
“This decision by the SC and the ECP is seen as a move towards ‘one-unit’, which is dangerous for the federation,” said Senator Rabbani. “The president is a symbol of the federation and this decision is a blow to that federation.”
The PPP’s boycott was endorsed by its long-time ally, the Awami National Party.
“The ANP will also boycott the election due to the change in schedule,” Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel told The Express Tribune. “Our legislators will not cast their vote in any assembly.”
“The political value of the presidential election was lost when the Supreme Court ordered rescheduling of the polls without hearing out the other parties,” he added.
“We are boycotting the election because we believe it will not be free and fair,” he said and demanded the resignation of Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, saying that the Election Commission of Pakistan had failed to play its due role. Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid spokesman Senator Kamil Ali Agha said his party would also abstain from voting on July 30.
During the press conference, Senator Rabbani was flanked by senior PPP leaders, including Khursheed Shah, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Qamer Zaman Kaira and Farhatullah Baber.
According to Fahim, the PPP consulted all allied parties before announcing the boycott. In this vein, Aitzaz Ahsan claimed that the top court’s judgment was based on “PML-N’s desire and not grounded in legality’.
“I was shocked to hear of the decision, as the court did not even bother consulting the ECP and other concerned parties,” said the lawyer, adding that although Ramazan’s last leg was cited by the SC to change the date, the Constitution could not be changed even in the state of war.
Aitzaz said the PML-N was afraid of Senator Rabbani’s well-prepared election campaign, and had taken this step to avoid defeat.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2013.