Wednesday Aug 11 2021
Web Desk

Fazl says EVM 'simplest way to rig elections' as PDM rejects electoral reforms, AJK poll results

Web Desk
JUI-F and PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman (right) along with Opposition Leader in the National Assembly and PML-N Shahbaz Sharif (left) address a press conference in Islamabad, on August 11, 2021. — YouTube
JUI-F and PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman (right) along with Opposition Leader in the National Assembly and PML-N Shahbaz Sharif (left) address a press conference in Islamabad, on August 11, 2021. — YouTube

  • QWP chief Aftab Sherpao made PDM's senior vice-president.
  • Alliance to hold massive rally in Karachi on Aug 29.
  • Nawaz to return only after getting treated: Shahbaz.

Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chief Fazlur Rehman on Wednesday declared the electronic voting machine as the "simplest way to rig elections" as the alliance rejected the government's "unilateral" electoral reforms and Azad Jammu and Kashmir's election results.

Fazl's remarks came following a meeting between the Opposition alliance in Islamabad after a two-month hiatus, during which it was decided PDM will "direct all its efforts in ensuring free and fair elections [take place] in the country."

The meeting's participants unanimously agreed the "country faces grave internal and external threats", and that the incumbent government has "completely failed" in combating the prevailing threats, the PDM chief said.

Key takeaways from meeting:

  • PDM makes Aftab Sherpao senior vice-president.
  • PDM to hold massive rally on Aug 29 in Karachi.
  • Recommendations made in today's meeting will be discussed in steering committee meeting on Aug 21.
  • Steering committee's recommendations will be finalised on Aug 28.
  • PDM demands cases against journalists be taken back.
  • PDM seeks inclusive solution to Afghan issue.

"Pakistan is facing isolation due to the current regime's policies," the PDM chief said, slamming the government for its "failed" foreign policy.

He recalled how recently Pakistan was not allowed to present its case during a United Nations Security Council meeting on Afghanistan.

"PDM believes the only way forward in Afghanistan is through an inclusive political solution;. Pakistan aspires for a political and stable Afghanistan," Fazl said.

Fazl said the PDM leaders took an in-depth review of the internal and external challenges facing Pakistan, after which, the meeting's participants demanded that Opposition lawmakers be taken into confidence over the situation in the neighbouring war-torn country.

"An important section of the country is unaware of the situation as facts are being hidden from them," the JUI-F chief said.

Speaking about the PDM's next course of action, he said the alliance's steering committee would hold a meeting on August 21 in Islamabad, during which the parties will mull over the recommendations presented today after internal deliberations.  

The PDM chief said final decisions will be made in the committee's meeting on August 28 in Karachi, following which, on August 29, a massive rally will be held in the port city.

"At this time, there is no constitutional governance in the country [...] attacks on freedom of expression are rampant, journalists are being ambushed," he said, adding PDM had condemned the acts.

All institutions should work within the constitutional framework so that the country can follow the Constitution in earnest, Fazl said.

"We reject each and every electoral reform put forward by this selected government, and we believe that NAB and FIA have become political institutions, who have lost their standing, as they are being used against the Opposition," he said.

The PDM demands cases registered by the FIA against journalists be taken back, he said, adding that the government end its tactics to gag the press.

The meeting also decided that Qaumi Watan Party chief Aftab Sherpao will be made the senior vice-president of the alliance, he said.

Fazl said the government has "bled the people dry" with historic inflation and unemployment, in its bid to meet the conditions of the International Monetary Fund.

Shahbaz provides update on Nawaz's health

Taking over the press conference, Shahbaz said PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif's medical treatment was underway in the UK, and a heart-related operation of his was crucial.

"He (Nawaz) will not return without getting treated; it is unfortunate that the government is politicising the health of a three-time prime minister," Shahbaz said.

The PML-N president reminded everyone that several people had "stooped so low" that when Nawaz's wife was on her death bed, they would make "absurd" comments about her health.

Meeting attendees

JUI-F and PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman presided over the meeting of the alliance, with Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Mahmood Khan Achakzai in attendance.

PML-N Senator Prof Sajid Mir, National Party Senator Mir Kabir Mohammad Shahi, JUI-F leader Akram Khan Durrani, Qaumi Watan Party leader Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, and Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan Shah Owais Noorani also attended the meeting.

PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz attended the meeting via video link, while other party leaders were present in person.

Nawaz, Shahbaz on same page

PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and his brother, PML-N President Shahbaz, appeared to be on the same page a day earlier, agreeing in talks to inject new vigour into the PDM and to ramp up efforts to oust the government.

The talks between the two brothers came amid speculation by the media and government representatives in recent months over a perceived difference in the two brothers' approaches, characterised by Minister for Interior Shaikh Rasheed as Noon League (named after Nawaz Sharif) separating from a supposed Sheen League (named after Shahbaz Sharif).

Sources told Geo News that Nawaz has instructed Shahbaz to mobilise the PML-N ranks to step up efforts in their anti-government campaign.

Meanwhile, former PDM member, PPP has wished the alliance good luck.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has, in fact, renewed calls for the Opposition to mount a no-trust bid against Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar.

"If the Opposition moves a no-confidence motion against [Prime Minister] Imran Khan and [Chief Minister Punjab] Usman Buzdar, then we can have the government ousted tomorrow," Bilawal said in a press conference a day earlier.

Bilawal's remarks came despite the PPP having had a fallout with the alliance and ultimately quitting it.

PDM's troubles

The PDM, a multi-party Opposition alliance, was formed on September 20, 2020, with a view to ousting the PTI-led government.

After a successful first few weeks of campaigning, that saw mass rallies convene all across Pakistan, rifts began to emerge, around the time of the Senate elections.

At the forefront of the tensions are the PPP and PML-N — considered the two biggest Opposition parties in Pakistan — ever since PPP's Yousaf Raza Gillani was appointed Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.

Gillani's appointment drew the ire of PDM, which said that the move was made without its blessing.

PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz maintains that at the time of the Senate chairman election, it was "decided" that with the PPP running for the seat, the PML-N will be given the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate position.

PPP, however, rounded up 30 senators to get its own candidate, Gillani appointed to the Opposition leader position.

The numbers comprised 21 senators from the PPP itself, 2 senators from the Awami National Party, 1 senator of the Jamaat-i-Islami, 2 independents from FATA and a group of 4 'independents' led by Senator Dilawar Khan that had broken away from the Balochistan Awami Party to support Gillani's candidature.

Over seeking the support of government allies (members of BAP), the PDM then issued show-cause notices to the PPP, as well as ANP, a move that was considered highly offensive by both parties and resulted in them quitting the alliance.

Mudslinging between both parties, following the breakup, has continued and the rift seems to be widening over time.

In the NA-249 by-election in Karachi, the PPP and PML-N fielded their separate candidates with PPP's Abdul Qadir Mandokhel winning the race. PML-N accused the PPP of stealing the election.

PPP, in turn, demanded proof of the allegations and went so far as to name the PML-N as the "original selected" and "only second to PTI in its selectiveness".

PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl faction, has on several occasions said he wishes to give PPP and ANP a chance to return to the fold.

In the latest report of him attempting to bridge the gap between the parties, it was said close to Eid-ul-Fitr, that the PDM chief may make an attempt to invite PPP and ANP back into the fold after Eid.

The PML-N president, too, has been focusing his efforts on bringing the PPP and the ANP back, in order to more effectively put pressure on the government once again.

Shahbaz, ahead of the last major PDM meeting, in May, had said at a press conference: "No party has the right to bring or kick another party out [of the alliance]. PDM is a forum and decisions are taken with consensus."

On May 29, the last time PDM met, the alliance rejected the government's electoral reforms as "one-sided" and announced a fresh wave of protest rallies across the country.