GILGIT / ISLAMABAD Poll : With the entry of Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) vice president Maryam Nawaz in the area on Thursday, electioneering gained traction in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) as Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari called into question the credibility and impartiality of the GB Election Commission ahead of Nov 15 elections.
The PPP chairman criticised GB Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Raja Shahbaz Khan for conducting a news conference in Islamabad and asked him to share specifics of “his meetings with government officials” during his stay in the federal capital, attending corner meetings at Pakwara in Astore and Jaglot in connection with the election campaign poll.
The day after the CEC, at a news conference in Islamabad, Mr. Bhutto-Zardari denied the talk of pre-poll manipulation in GB and implicitly blamed the opposition parties for crying foul right before the elections.
“The GB CEC said without mentioning anyone:” In 24 constituencies, there are returning officers who have not seen any rigging, but they (the opposition) can see it while sitting 600 km away.
He said that notices for conducting election campaigns in GB in breach of the code of ethics were given to as many as 95 persons belonging to various political parties. He said Mr. Bhutto-Zardari and Federal Ministers Murad Saeed and Ali Amin Gandapur were included in the notices released.
In response to the CEC news conference, Mr. Bhutto-Zardari said it was the CEC ‘s job to conduct free and fair GB polls, but “he is holding meetings in Islamabad and addressing a press conference against me.”
The chairman of the PPP expressed surprise at the election commission’s issuing of a notice to him, stating that he did not hold any public office and had the freedom to manage his party’s election campaign.
The election commissioner encourages the abuse of electoral laws by the prime minister and federal ministers and does not protect the people’s right to engage in free and fair elections, he claimed.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari then switched his weapons on Prime Minister Imran Khan and blamed him for speaking about the decision of his government to grant the GB provisional provincial status. It was former President Asif Zardari, he said, who awarded GB interim provincial status and appointed a governor and chief minister back in 2009. He argued that Mr Khan was “ignorant” about the situation on the ground in GB.
The PPP chairman said the citizens of the region were asking him why he did not announce the package during the last two years of his administration, responding to the recent announcement by the prime minister that he was not announcing any package for GB due to the elections.
He called a breach of the election laws the visits of the prime minister and the federal ministers to GB and claimed that the ministers were also circulating money to the voters to seek their votes. “He said, however, that” these incapable (ministers) and marionettes do not realise that the GB masses are noble and trustworthy persons who are not available for sale.
“Imran Khan wants to snatch Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s subsidy given (to the GB people) on food items, petrol, and clothing but the PPP will not allow this to happen,” he said.
The PPP, he said, would not only grant GB full-fledged provincial status, but also the right to govern and its residents the rights to property and jobs.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari said today that every part of society was protesting against the “tyranny” of the government.
In the meantime, Maryam Nawaz also addressed Skardu and Ghanche PML-N staff, where she mainly criticised the Pakistani government of Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in Pakistan and Prime Minister Khan.
It is interesting to note that, from the platform of the Pakistan Democratic Movement, the PPP and the PML-N are jointly conducting an anti-government programme in Pakistan but are contesting elections in GB against each other. So far, though, the two parties have refrained from attacking each other in their election campaigns, and both are specifically targeted at the PTI.
Published in Dharti News, November 6th, 2020