Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf President Makhdoom Javed Hashmi on Wednesday defended his party’s scheduled countrywide protest but said that it was not aimed at forcing the government to call midterm elections.
“We [PTI] are not in favour of midterm elections… we only want to exercise our constitutional right to protest against rigging in the  general elections,” Hashmi told lawmakers in the National Assembly.
Despite differences, the PTI will stand by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his government to ensure the continuity of the democratic system, he said.
“We will stand by Nawaz Sharif for the sake of democracy… we will fight for the democratic cause to the last drop of our blood,” Hashmi, a former close aide of Nawaz, said. He urged all other political parties to play their role in protecting democracy and Parliament at all costs.
The PTI president also justified his party’s protest movement scheduled for May 11 by saying they had given the government a year to improve things but has seen no changes yet.
In response to Hashmi’s speech, Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanveer Hussain said PTI’s reiteration of support for democracy and its planned protest were ‘perplexing’. He added that the PTI had no issues with election results in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where it has formed government, but was crying foul about the constituencies where it had lost. “The PTI needs to move beyond self interest,” he said. “You [PTI] are tarnishing Parliament with allegations of rigging.”
The PTI president also brought up several other issues in his hour-long speech, including the attack on Hamid Mir, Geo TV’s campaign against the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the role of the media.
“There must be some limits to freedom of press. No one should be allowed to malign anyone of his own choosing,” Hashmi said while criticising Jang columnist Hassan Nisar for launching a personal attack.
Talking about the ISI, he said Pakistan’s strategic importance in the region over the years had given the agency a key role. He added, however, that the ISI should operate within the ambit of the law.
Earlier, during the proceedings, lawmakers from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement staged a walkout in protest against the ‘continued killing and abduction’ of the party’s workers.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2014.
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