Politicians stick to their guns on polls

Politicians stick to their guns on polls

PESHAWAR/ ISLAMABAD:

Despite the chief justice of Pakistan calling for the government and opposition to reach a consensus on the elections through talks, the politicians are sticking to their guns and despite the early positive response, an agreement on the polls still seems hopeless.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who is also the country’s foreign minister, in a rebuke to the CJP said political dialogue could not be held by pointing “[a] gun to our heads”.

Bilawal, who had strongly backed talks with the PTI, emphasised that all elections must be held at their scheduled time – after the completion of the full tenure of the assemblies.

“Negotiations cannot be held by putting a gun to our heads,” Bilawal said at a news conference along with senior party leaders Yousuf Raza Gilani and Qamar Zaman Kaira.

Also read: Punjab polls delay case: AGP, PPP seek time for dialogue with PTI

“This gun is a minority [SC] decision, that is being forced upon us,” he added.

Bilawal, Gilani and Kaira are part of a three-member committee that is meeting leaders of the ruling coalition parties to persuade them to hold talks with the PTI in order to end the ongoing political crisis in the country.

On Wednesday, while hearing a petition for holding general elections for the National and provincial assemblies simultaneously across the country, the CJP had asked political leaders to hold negotiations to end the impasse.

“As long as this SC decision stands, as long as this gun is to our heads, how can I convince our allies to negotiate?” Bilawal told reporters.

He warned that no talks could ever succeed under the shadow of the “gun”.

The current crisis emanated from PTI chairman and deposed premier Imran Khan’s decision to dissolve the provincial assemblies in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa — where his party was in power — to force the federal government into holding snap elections in the country.

However, the ruling coalition did not succumb to the PTI’s pressure.

Also read: Dialogue cannot happen with a gun to your head: Bilawal

The chief ministers of the two provinces, on the instructions of Imran, dissolved the assemblies in January.

As per the Constitution, the elections were due in 90 days, but the federal government was reluctant to hold the vote.

In March, the SC took suo motu notice of the delay and ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold the elections in Punjab and K-P.

Initially the date of April 30 was fixed for the polls in Punjab but the ECP postponed it to October 8.

The SC then again took up a petition of the PTI against the postponement of the election and ordered the electoral watchdog to hold the election on May 14 in any case.

However, it only deepened a crisis as parliament refused to bear the expenses of the elections.

The ruling coalition had also taken the position that the SC’s decision did not hold because four of the seven-judge bench had rejected the suo motu notice. Now, the matter is in the apex court again, where a three-member bench has called for political dialogue to resolve the issue.

Bilawal claimed that there was a conspiracy to force elections in Punjab.

He warned that if early elections were held in any province, especially Punjab, because of the “stubbornness” of some elements, it would affect politics in the rest of the country.

“There is a conspiracy to force the election in Punjab under the guise of 90 days. This is a veiled conspiracy to implement One Unit [the administrative set up in the country in the 1950s and 1960s]. “We were against the One Unit yesterday and we are against it today,: he added.

The PPP chairman further said parliament had unanimously bound the executive to implement the 4-3 decision of the SC.

“As far as the implementation of the court decision is concerned, we are implementing the majority decision of four judges,” he maintained.

Bilawal reiterated the ruling coalition government’s stance that elections for the National Assembly and all the provincial legislatures should be held on the same day.

When asked about his efforts for political dialogue with the opposition, the PPP chairman said that he was trying to bring all allies on the same page.

“We understand that if we do not find a solution to problems, it will threaten democracy and the federation,” he continued.

“Our efforts for negotiation are ongoing. We are trying our best, we have been doing it before, we are doing it now. A summit meeting of all the coalition parties will be held after Eidul Fitr. Our stand has been that elections should be held on time,” he elaborated.

Addressing the media in Peshawar, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) president and JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that first they were being asked to negotiate in ”front of a gun” and today they were being told to negotiate in “front of a hammer”, while referring to the CJP’s gavel.

The JUI-F chief, whose party is in the forefront in refusing to negotiate with the PTI expressing its lack in trust in Imran, asked why he should appear before a court the parliament had expressed no confidence in.

“The Supreme Court is trying to make Imran Khan eligible for politics,” he maintained.

In response to a question about negotiations with the PTI, the JUI-F chief replied that he did not consider Imran qualified enough to hold talks with him.

Fazl also wondered why the apex court had become a party and was stuck on May 14.

“Why is the court asking for a way now?” he asked.

He also claimed that the CJP was humiliating the current rulers while being seated on an ”honourable” chair.

“The Supreme Court should be flexible. When flexibility can be created for Imran Khan, why not for us?” he asked.

Also read: Punjab elections on May 14 can lead to chaos, ECP tells SC

The JUI-F chief reiterated that parliament was supreme.

He further claimed that Imran had “destroyed the country’s economy”, adding that the “devaluation of the rupee is no longer in our control”.

PML-N Senior Vice President Maryam Nawaz went a step ahead in her criticism of the PTI, tweeting that negotiations were held with political parties and not “terrorists” or “miscreants”.

“Keep that in mind!,” she added.

After the JUI-F chief, she too opposed holding talks with the PTI.

These days, Maryam is in Saudi Arabia along with her father, former premier and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, to perform Umrah.

Maryam’s tweet comes at a time when the PPP is engaged in efforts to convince other ruling coalition partners to initiate negotiations with the PTI.

However, the PTI believes cracks had emerged within the ruling coalition.

Its Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the media outside the SC that the PDM government had escaped from elections.

He maintained that the government had run away even after coming to the top court.

Qureshi claimed that differences had surfaced among the ruling coalition partners and the JUI-F chief did not even agree to meet Bilawal.

It is pertinent to mention here that Bilawal had called on Fazl in Dera Ismail Khan a day earlier to convince him to hold talks with the PTI.

“The rifts between the ruling coalition have come to the fore for the whole nation to witness,” Qureshi added.

The PTI senior leader said the SC had fixed the date of April 27 for the next hearing of the polls delay case.

Qureshi said the coalition government had said it accepted the SC’s verdict.

He added that when the current rulers spoke about holding talks with the PTI for conducting the elections across the country on the same date, his party had agreed to it too.

The PTI leader maintained that his party was ready for negotiations with the government within the framework of the Constitution.


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