Opposition alliance’s president warns government will not be allowed to act unconstitutionally
A presidential ordinance cannot legally change the procedure of Senate elections, which requires a constitutional amendment, leaders of the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) said on Thursday.
Addressing media in Karachi, PDM President Fazlur Rehman, who also heads the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, said that the government’s “fear” of the opposition was evident in its desire to stage the Senate elections ahead of schedule. He said that the PDM’s successful public gatherings had worried the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government, adding that the opposition would not allow it to indulge in unconstitutional acts.
“Who has given the government the authority to bypass the Constitution,” he said. “It seems the federal cabinet [which proposed holding early Senate elections with a show-of-hands] does not have an understanding of constitutional matters,” he added. The PTI-led government cannot be considered a constitutional or democratic regime, he said.
To a question, Rehman accused the security establishment of using pliant media to project the PDM’s Lahore rally at Minar-e-Pakistan a “failure.” He said the PDM was united in its desire for “real democracy” in Pakistan, adding that it would also insure the autonomy of institutions.
To another question, the PDM chief said Pakistan should formally recognize Palestine, not Israel. “Pakistan’s foreign policy has failed and it is facing isolation,” he warned.
Meanwhile, addressing media in Lahore, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) Vice President Maryam Nawaz said that while she did not have any issue with “open ballot” voting in Senate elections, the government’s timing suggested ulterior motives.
“The government is worried about its own lawmakers voting against it,” she said, questioning why the government had decided to enact electoral reforms within months of the Senate polls instead of earlier. “The matter must be taken up by Parliament,” she said, adding that the government’s decision to seek the guidance of the Supreme Court was an example of it dragging institutions into parliamentary affairs.
“The entire country’s eyes are on the judiciary and the Election Commission of Pakistan, and I hope they will not let them down,” she said. She also hit out at Prime Minister Imran Khan announcing that Senate polls would be held in February, saying that the authority to announce election schedules rested solely with the Election Commission, which was constitutionally an independent body.
The PTI-led government this week announced it would hold Senate elections in February rather than the previously scheduled March and is seeking a change in rules to end the practice of secret ballots. Speaking with media, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that “everyone knows” that Senate votes are often secured through bribes and claimed that the government’s proposed changes would end this practice.