ISLAMABAD: Former interior minister Sheikh Rashid urged the ‘establishment’ on Saturday to “stay away” from tomorrow’s Punjab by-elections.
The Awami Muslim League (AML) – an ally of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) – chief’s remarks came in a video message ahead of the July 17 (tomorrow’s) by-polls for the 20 seats that fell vacant in the Punjab Assembly following the de-seating of 25 MPAs of the PTI by the Election Commission.
“The establishment must prove itself as neutral in tomorrow’s election,” he said, adding that “the nation will not tolerate any sort of aggression, harassment or rigging”.
“If the nation votes for Imran Khan then they should not be stopped,” said the AML leader. He also cautioned that “should their path be impeded, then this country will witness a fire so massive that it will engulf everyone”.
Noting the significance of the by-polls, he said “the nation should be the one to choose, no other party should be allowed to meddle with that”.
Rashid also commented on the Supreme Court’s (SC) recent judgment and additional note on the deputy speaker of the National Assembly’s ruling, to dismiss the no-trust resolution against former prime minister Imran Khan.
The SC had observed that the sacred trust of exercise of authority was violated by President Arif Alvi, ex-premier Imran and other PTI leaders.
“Those who are implementing Article 6 [high treason] against Imran Khan lack the basic sense to understand that this is merely an additional note, not the SC’s decision,” said the former minister. “They [current government] have been imposed upon the people on the basis of a few votes,” he added.
It may be noted here that the by-elections in 20 Punjab Assembly constituencies had gained further political weighage in sealing the fate of the provincial administration in the wake of the SC’s order to postpone the second round of elections for Punjab chief minister to July 22.
Furthermore, the outcome of the elections in the country’s political heartland will have a direct bearing on the Centre.
The development had altered all previous careful political calculations and seemingly granted PTI’s candidate Pervez Elahi a much-needed breather, who otherwise had no fighting chance if voting had proceeded as per Lahore High Court’s (LHC) orders.
The PML-N currently enjoys an advantage of four more votes in the Punjab Assembly even though the PTI bagged five seats in the PA after the Election Commission (ECP) issued notifications of reserved seats.
At present, the PTI needs to win around 14 seats to regain the coveted office from the PML-N, while losing any more than six seats would mean banking on independents to switch sides which, given the existing circumstances, seems an unlikely probability. For both sides, clawing back to the post would also ensure their fresh mandates in the next general elections.