As the country’s largest opposition group, Pakistan Peoples Party has dismissed the government’s attempts to justify the Supreme Court’s decision to reschedule the presidential election and plans to stay away from the proceedings of the lower house of parliament.
“The ruling party (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) should write another letter, as it did earlier, to the Supreme Court to undo its decision and hold the presidential election on August 6 otherwise we will boycott this process,” said PPP-Parliamentarians leader Makhdoom Amin Fahim, while leading his party’s walkout from the National Assembly session on Monday.
The party wants the election to be held on its original date of August 6.
Wearing a black armband, Fahim alleged that bringing forward the polling date amounted to “pre-poll rigging” and said the rescheduling was not acceptable to the PPP, Awami National Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid and Balochistan National Party-Awami.
However, the PPPP leader candidly acknowledged the fact that his party did not have the required numerical strength to win the election, but it still fielded Senator Raza Rabbani as its candidate to strengthen the democratic process and fulfill the constitutional requirement.
“The Supreme Court unilaterally gave the verdict on an application submitted by PML-N leader Raja Zafarul Haq and did not hear presidential contenders or other stakeholders,” he added.
Fahim also appealed to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan to boycott the polls, saying the opposition would be powerful if it was united.
Though PTI’s deputy parliamentary leader, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, subscribed to this viewpoint, he said his party would still contest the election.
“I would ask the PPPP that (now that) you have registered your protest, end the boycott and become part of the process,” said Qureshi.
He held the Election Commission of Pakistan responsible for the controversy and said the apex court also committed negligence by advancing the date without hearing the grievances of all parties.
He said PML-N and its allies have numerical superiority and the opposition was not in a position to get its candidate elected even if there was a consensus.
In response, Water and Power Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif of the PML-N said Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah had no reservations on holding the presidential election on July 30.
“We discussed with the opposition leader and he had concerns for delaying the polls but had no issues with holding it early. The PPPP had perhaps decided to boycott under the influence of some afterthoughts,” claimed Asif.
“The decision was neither against the constitution nor had disenfranchised any member. We had approached the Supreme Court after the ECP refused to change the date and hinted to approach the court for this purpose,” he added.
Asif appealed to all parties to participate in the presidential election.
Though the opposition censured the government along with the ECP and apex court over the election controversy, it did not stage a walkout from the Senate session.
Rabbani said there was “a nexus between the government, judiciary and the election commission”. He alleged that “provincial assemblies were undermined during rescheduling process because only Islamabad based voters were facilitated through this decision”.
Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, leader of the opposition in Senate, said the apex court’s ruling was illegal and unconstitutional, as it had transgressed its limits. He termed the judgment a “cruel act”. “The apex court has no right to change the schedule of the presidential election.”
Senator Farhatullah Babar said the court was biased against the PPP, citing several judgments in which the top leadership of his party, according to him, was targeted.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2013.