Separate rallies led by different constituent members of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – a 10-party opposition alliance seeking to oust the government – have reached Islamabad, where a protest is being held outside the headquarters of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against what is being termed by the PDM as an “unacceptable delay” in the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s foreign funding case.
Addressing the rally yesterday, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) vice-president Maryam Nawaz said that the PDM parties had gathered outside the ECP to remind the election authority of its constitutional obligations.
Commenting on the size of the crowd, she asked whether there had been a “misunderstanding” that the PDM’s planned long march “was being held today”.
“From the huge size of the crowd, I feel like you had that misconception. If this is a protest rally, look and think what the condition will be when the public reaches here for the long march,” she remarked.
Maryam said the protest was being held on the Constitutional Avenue but “unfortunately there is no justice or Constitution in the country we live in”.
“Today we have gathered in front of the ECP office to remind it of its constitutional responsibilities, to tell the chief election commissioner that your institution is a constitutional institution and an institution of the people,” she said. “This is the institution that the Constitution has made responsible for respecting the people’s votes and this is the institution that had to get respect for the people’s votes.”
Terming the PTI foreign funding case the “biggest fraud in Pakistan’s history”, she said that although the cases against her father (former prime minister Nawaz Sharif) were expedited and decided within days, the ECP had “only held 70 hearings” of the PTI case since 2014.
The PML-N leader said the case against the PTI could be decided within three days, “but they have been sitting like a snake on top of it for seven years”.
Maryam said that the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) had identified “23 secret accounts” of the PTI, which she claimed were being operated through Prime Minister Imran’s signatures.
She alleged that Prime Minister Khan had received funds from “countless” people in Israel and India.
The PML-N leader was joined on the stage, set up atop a container, by PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman and other top leaders of the opposition alliance.
Addressing the rally, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam – Fazlur (JUI-F) chief Rehman alleged that the government was “not elected” and had no right to rule, and accused the “helpless” ECP of having failed to conduct transparent elections.
Also addressing the rally, Balochistan National Party – Mengal (BNP-M) president Sardar Akhtar Mengal said the PDM is seeking the “supremacy of the Constitution”, and that its supporters had gathered “to get the Constitution implemented on which the country is standing”.
Maryam and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)’s Sherry Rehman earlier shared visuals of separate entourages, each being led by leaders of the respective parties, moving towards a decided meeting point in the capital from where they headed towards the ECP office.
Before the rally, Maryam, BNP-M chief Mengal, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai and the PPP’s Sherry Rehman gathered at the house of PDM president Rehman, where they held a discussion on the arrangements for the protest and the security situation.
Other leaders including former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf of the PPP, Captain (retired) Mohamed Safdar and Khurram Dastagir, also participated in the discussion.
The foreign funding case against the PTI was filed in November 2014 by Akbar S Babar, a founding member of the party.
He had alleged serious financial irregularities in the PTI’s accounts.
The allegations made by Babar included illegal sources of funding, concealment of bank accounts in the country and abroad, money laundering, and using private bank accounts of PTI employees as a front to receive illegal donations from the Middle East.
The ECP is expected to hear the funding case against the ruling party today.
The ECP building has been completely sealed with concrete blocks and barbed wire surrounding it, while a large number of security personnel have been deployed outside.
More than a thousand security officials, including police and 300 Rangers personnel, have been deployed outside the ECP headquarters, officials said.
Police said all entry and exit points to the capital’s Red Zone, which houses high-profile buildings such as the Supreme Court and President House among others, have also been sealed.
Police officials have been instructed not to carry firearms; only Rangers will carry firearms.
The Special Branch and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have also been deployed for making arrests.
Meanwhile, the interior ministry also established a control room to monitor the protest.
Information Minister Shibli Faraz said that the government had not placed any obstacles for the opposition’s protest.
“The smooth flow of traffic on the capital’s highways is proof of the premier’s pro-democratic mindset. The nation has not forgotten when the PML-N government targeted PTI protesters during a peaceful demonstration,” he said.
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