Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Wednesday launched a scathing attack on the government — in particular Prime Minister Imran Khan and National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser — saying that the rulers claim they are out to bring electoral reforms but are looking for “another way to steal elections”.
Addressing a press conference alongside PML-N general secretary Ahsan Iqbal and party spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, Abbasi asked where anyone will go when the machines are “taken away” or the data is made to “disappear”.
He said the people devising these ways are those “who themselves are involved in stealing elections and who themselves came into power after the most controversial elections held in Pakistan’s history”.
Abbasi said this is “akin to a wolf taking care of sheep”.
“And so this wolf is saying the election system must be handed over to them as they are bringing forth reforms and an inter parliamentary committee must be formed,” he continued.
‘First catch the one who kidnapped presiding officers and installed cameras’
Abbasi heavily criticised a letter written by PM Imran Khan to the NA speaker, whereby he has stressed on the formation of the parliamentary committee.
In the letter, the prime minister has also regretted how in the Senate elections held recently, corrupt practices were allowed and money was thrown about.
Abbasi, referring to the letter, said a prime minister “who does not know the decorum of the parliament and neither does he attend its sessions has written to the speaker”.
He referred to the letter as “two ignorant men writing to each other”, whereas what should be focused on has long been ignored.
The former premier said a month has passed but no action has been taken against the kidnapping of 20 presiding officers during the NA-75 election in Daska.
“And these members of the House are writing to one another saying the election system has been destroyed. The system has always been in place. You must catch the one who destroyed it.
“You must nab the one who kidnapped the presiding officer in Daska and the one who stole votes. You must catch those who put cameras in the Senate. You must catch those who appointed the presiding officer of the biggest institution’s election — the Senate polls,” said Abbasi.
He went on to say that the presiding officer “did not see instructions that the stamp on votes can be put anywhere inside the candidate’s box on the ballot paper and has made the senate polls controversial”.
“And now they are talking of electronic voting machines.”
‘Speaker remains silent’
In further criticism, Abbasi said that all these reforms are sought from a parliament “that is barely functional and has no respect for parliamentary rules”.
“If the speaker knew of parliamentary rules, [he would not have been a silent spectator] when the premier took the name of five opposition leaders and bad-mouthed them. They were defamed and accused but the speaker remained silent,” the former premier alleged.
“Who should join that speaker’s parliamentary committee then? And how can they [conscionably] go?” he asked.
He regretted that the speaker “does not do” what the role requires of him.
“If the speaker has any courage, he must expunge those remarks from the prime minister’s speech. This is his authority and his responsibility. That is, if he has any respect for the rules and any courage. If he wishes to remain unabashed and without shame and continue his employment, then he can go on,” Abbasi said.
Speaking further of the parliament and the debates therein, he said “there has been no talk of the people, the inflation, sugar, wheat, electricity bills”, adding that it is a forum where “raising your voice to speak for the people is prevented”.
“The speaker stops you,” he said, adding: “The speaker is supposed to be non-partisan and one who earns the opposition’s respect.”
He added that the speaker “is one who neither lets the leader of the opposition speak and who does not see the empty front row of benches”.
“The leader of the opposition is in jail who has no case against him and so is the parliamentary party leader. But the speaker remains silent. The custodian of the House remains silent.
“This is the misfortune of the House. Who will trust such a speaker? Within the assembly premises, a mob attacks six members but the speaker remains silent,” Abbasi went on to say.
The PML-N leader said that same day, an hour later, the “leader of the House makes a speech while taking the names of opposition leaders with nothing but abusive words for them”.
“Even he did not have the courtesy to call out the incident as wrong,” he added.
“This is the parliament. There are committees available here. The speaker should have called a session of the committee right then. It was under his very nose the attack took place,” Abbasi said.
The former premier alleged that the speaker also prevented the media from going to the parliament lodges where the opposition MNAs and senators live.
PDM has come ‘to right these wrongs’
Speaking of the Pakistan Democratic Movement, Abbasi said that the 10-party opposition alliance “has come to right these wrongs within the system”.
“We have even stopped asking for production orders (of incarcerated leaders so they may participate in parliament sessions) although it is the speaker’s responsibility to ensure this on his own,” Abbasi said.
The PML-N leader said that the speaker, in effect, “has denied the people their right for their representatives to come to the parliament and speak on their behalf”.
He said although in yesterday’s meeting PDM could not see eye to eye, “it stands united and its success comes from the fact that even talks behind close doors are there before the people today”.
“So PDM is determined to continue forward to bring the rule of law and Constitution back to Pakistan with a new government,” he concluded by saying.