If polls date announced, PTI can sit with govt on electoral reforms: Qureshi

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi Thursday said if the government announces the date of elections, his party could consider holding talks with the government on electoral reforms for free and transparent elections after consultations within the party. Talking to reporters outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) after meeting with Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja here, he said they have a demand for immediate elections because the country is in a state of unrest while the economy is in a crisis. The government is there now for a month but there is confusion and indecision with regard to the future course of action while rupee has depreciated by another Rs7 against dollar. The decline in the value of money would further add to inflation and the loans burden has also increased by another Rs1,000 billion. He continued to say that there was a downturn in the stock market in a month that the stock market shed 3,000 points. He said that subsidy on electricity and oil would be withdrawn as per the understanding with IMF and this would further add to economic woes, as both diesel and petrol would become dearer. He claimed the cabinet has appointed a trade officer in New Delhi, as it is making efforts for trade with India. He then asked if the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir’s (IIOJ&K) status has been restored to its August 5, 2019 position.

Qureshi said his government had suspended trade with India, after it illegally and in flagrant violations of the UN resolutions, unilaterally stripped IIOJ&K of its special status. “The nation questions if India has also stopped the blatant human rights violations in IIOJ&K and if not, then whose game you are playing and whom you are trying to appease,” he retorted while addressing Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and also questioned for not issuing a single statement against Israel and its forces for repeatedly desecrating Qibla-e-Awwal and beating up the worshipers, using baton, rubber bullets and grenades. He pointed out that there is a national level bipartisan approach on Kashmir and Palestine yet Bilawal is keeping mum.

Referring to Bilawal’s statement in the National Assembly that a PTI federal minister had threatened that martial law would be imposed if they did not listen to their government, Qureshi challenged him to name the minister if he had enough moral courage while he and his father were part of those who had plunged Pakistan into unrest. He again asked Bilawal if he would, during his US visit, meet the World Bank President over the Indus Basin Treaty with reference to water issues with India, which is unmoved to resume talks with Pakistan while it is our right to call upon New Delhi to share the design of its new hydro-power project at the Chenab River. “In view of the serious water issues, confronting South Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, why are you silent?” he wondered.

About the Punjab situation, Qureshi contended that presently there is a constitutional crisis in the province, the governor has been ousted and the one who was nominated has refused to take oath, case of dissident members of the Punjab PTI is pending. “If our dissident MPAs are de-seated, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz will not be able to take vote of confidence.” He noted presently there is no cabinet in the Punjab and so far, whatever decisions Hamza Shehbaz has made have no legal status. If the provincial bureaucracy is implementing those orders, it is transgressing the legal and constitutional ambit.

Qureshi said that in this situation, the country is facing a hysterical state, political instability as lakhs of people are expressing solidarity with Imran Khan and turning up at his public meetings everywhere and this shows people have not recognised the incumbent government and have rejected it. He emphasised that in the given situation, the only and better solution is elections. He noted that they have already cooperated on electoral reforms and they are ready to cooperate with the government again.

The PTI leader said to peacefully protest is their right and if hurdles are created in this way, they will move the judiciary and also go to the people. He said that he met Chief Election Commissioner, presented the party’s point of view before him, which is our duty, and added the Election Commission and political parties have an ‘unbreakable relationship’.

“To understand the legal complexities and take guidance from him is necessary for me,” he said about his meeting with the chief election commissioner. The meeting took place hours after PTI’s Faisal Vawda filed a reference against ECP Sindh member and he and senior party leader Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said the other day that they would start a legal struggle against the electoral body and bring references against the chief election commissioner and two other ECP members.

Qureshi said he talked to the Election Commission regarding two more cases, one of which was about Yusuf Raza Gilani, about whom the ECP had given its judgment and PTI had accepted it, wherein Gilani was given a clean chit while his son Ali Haider Gilani was found involved in corrupt practices. The ECP had ordered the district election commission to file a criminal case against him. The order was given on April 29 and was sent to the commissioner concerned the same day and till to-date, the order could not be implemented. He insisted being a citizen, it is his right to ask why the ECP order is not being implemented and if their legal wing shows complacency, there should be action against it.

Qureshi said case of PTI’s dissident MPA, Salman Naeem, was filed in the ECP and he was de-seated and later the Lahore High Court, Multan Bench, also upheld the ECP decision and they expected the Supreme Court to also uphold it. He emphasised they wanted all parties should be treated equally in all cases, including the foreign funding case, and there should be no discrimination against any party. “We expect the Election Commission will not disappoint us,” he said.

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