ISLAMABAD – Drenched in heavy rain and marred by apathy of their top tier leader, a shortened protest procession of opposition parties marched from the Parliament House to the ECP building where they handed the commission officials a declaration of demands and secured a promise of their meeting with the ECP on February 6.
But the protest leaders announced that they were cancelling their sit-in; instead, they would merely march to the commission’s building. The participants of the meeting issued a declaration outlining their demands, but at the same time expressed full confidence in the ECP.
The seriousness of the central leaders of the participating parties could be judged well from the fact that after the reading out of the joint resolution adopted by over a dozen political parties by JI Niab Amir Liaquat Baloch, almost all of them left the venue leaving the job of presenting the resolution to the ECP to their juniors. Upon reaching at the ECP, where a heavy police contingent was also in place, Liaquat Baloch, PML-N leader Salim Zia and representatives of few other parties jointly presented the memorandum of the sit-in of the opposition parties to the officials of ECP.
The two-page resolution besides extending unequivocal support to ECP in dispensation of its duties also demanded removal of all the provincial governors on induction of caretaker governments in provinces as well as posting out of key bureaucrats including federal secretaries of Interior, Establishment, Information and Finance divisions, provincial chief secretaries and inspector generals of police.
The resolution deplored and condemned the mala-fide efforts of extra-constitutional and non-political forces to make the ECP controversial, with a view to delaying the upcoming general elections and creating hindrances in the smooth and proper functioning of the department. It also put weight behind the commission in carrying out fresh delimitations of constituencies and thorough door-to-door verification of voters’ lists in Karachi in the light of the Supreme Court judgement.
Earlier, the decision of cancellation of the sit-in was announced at a PML-N parliamentary meeting, chaired by Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. The meeting was also attended by Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F). Other attendees included Sunni Tehreek, National Peoples Party (NPP), Sindh United Party (SUP), Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) and Awami Tehreek Sindh (ATS).
The token sit-in in front of the Parliament was dominated by the PML-N workers who were holding party flags and chanting slogans in support of their party leadership. The second largest participation, in the overall four to five hundred participants, was of JI activists, who also made their presence felt. While the participation of rest of the parties was ceremonial, and in a few cases it could be appropriate to label it as moral support.
Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Ch Nisar Ali Khan came in the sit-in for a brief time and also spoke only a few words explaining the reasons behind holding the demonstration. He said that the sit-in was the continuation of the three sit-ins staged in Karachi demanding holding of fresh delimitations of constituencies and voter’s lists verification. Later, on his request JI Niab Amir Liaquat Baloch read out the joint resolution, which was approved by the participants of sit-in with voice vote.
The leaders of opposition parties were to march up to the ECP offices to show solidarity with the department as well as to hand over the resolution but as the intensity of the rain had increased, the central leaders of these parties including Ch Nisar preferred going inside the Parliament House. When the main leaders left the programme halfway, the majority of the participants also left the venue
Talking to media, Liaquat Baloch said they had given a clear message to all those who wanted to intimidate the ECP. He said the people would not let succeed any conspiracy to defer or cancel free and fair elections. He further made it clear that they would not leave the people of Karachi alone and would stand by them in getting the voters’ lists verification and delimitation of constituencies.
PML-N leader Salim Zia said that they would not tolerate any hindrance in the EC functions in Karachi and would let anyone browbeat the officials of EC while performing their duties in the port city.
Earlier, the meeting opposition parties was chaired by Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Ch. Nisar Ali Khan to give final shape to the memorandum extending complete moral support to Election Commission of Pakistan.