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Decision to deploy army men inside polling stations to be challenged in court: Bilawal

By Ali Hazrat Bacha 2019-07-06
PESHAWAR: Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal BhuttoZardari said on Friday that his party would move the court if the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) failed to withdraw its decision of deploying army personnel with magisterial powers inside polling stations in elections for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly`s seats in the erstwhile Fata.

Addressing a meet-the-press programme at the Peshawar Press Club, he said that his party had already requested the ECP through a written application to reconsider its decision about deploying army personnel inside polling stations.

He said a fair, free and impartial election could not be expected in the prevailing situation, adding that polling was scheduled for July 20, but the opposition parties had so far been not allowed to run their campaigns.

He said imposition of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in different areas during election days was beyond reason, adding that its only purpose was to harass workers of opposition parties and keep them away from voters.

He said the restriction on the movement of opposition leaders was meant to rig the elections for the candidates of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). He regretted that the government did not allow him to lay a wreathon the monument of police martyrs in the Peshawar Police Lines.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari alleged that the Mohmand tribal district`s administration had withdrawn permission for his party`s public meeting at the eleventh hour without giving any reason. On the other hand, he added, the PTI candidates were running their campaign under foolproof security which proved mala fide intentions of relevant institutions.

He said despite many incidents during both military regimes and civilian governments in the past, army personnel were not given magisterial powers inside polling stations.

The PPP chairman said his party would resist interference of military personnel in the elections, saying that it would be considered a martial law inside polling stations. He said the government was using different tactics to build pressure on opposition parties, adding that the arrest of opposition leaders, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Rana Sanaullah, was part of this plan. `All these are old tactics of interior minister Ijaz Shah,` he added.

He said the PPP would not come under pressure even if his whole leadership was sent to jail. He said the PPP would not compromise on the 18th Amendment, share of federating units in the National Finance Commission (NFC) award and its stance against military courts. `I have launched a mass contact movement toexpose the real face of the incompetent rulers,` he said. He accused the government of trying to create differences among federating units over the NFC award and 18th Amendment.

He said the PPP government had increased budget for the erstwhile Fata by 500 per cent. He criticised the PTI government for what he called not providing any relief to the people of tribal areas. He urged the government to announce a special financial package for the newly merged tribal districts. The government, he said, should follow the constitution and stop political victimisation.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the opposition parties had built consensus for changing the chairman of Senate democratically.

He severely criticised the performance of the PTI government, claiming that Prime Minister Imran Khan did not have the capacity to run the country`s affairs. He said the `IMFbudget` did not have a solution for the country`s economic problems. The country was f acing a worst kind of economic crisis which had led to unprecedented price hike.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari paid tribute to former prime ministers Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, saying that they sacrificed their lives for establishment of democracy in the country. He vowed to continue the struggle for strengthening of democracy, empowerment of parliament, rule of law, f reedom of speech and civil rights.