Political rivals roll up sleeves for Punjab by-polls electioneering

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE - As the Supreme Court has ordered to hold recount of votes for chief minister election on July 22 after the Punjab Assembly strength is complete, the ruling coalition government led by PML-N and the opposition PTI have started intense electioneering to grab maximum seats in the Punjab bye-elections being held on 20 provincial assembly constituencies on July 17.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan launched his party’s election campaign by holding the party’s first public rally at Parade Ground, Islamabad, yesterday while PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz kicked off his party electioneering from Lahore to muster maximum public support for their respective parties’ candidates.

While addressing the party’s rally in Islamabad, Imran Khan urged the institutions that there was still time to save this country from the “corrupt rulers” lest they would have to repent when the time is over.

He said that he had not come out on roads to confront the state institutions. However, he spent most of his time addressing the institutions including the judiciary. Khan had given a protest call of July 2 against the rising inflation, increase in prices of fuel and utility bills and against the ruling coalition that seized power as a result of his ouster from power.

Before his speech from the Parade Ground that was broadcast live by PTI in big cities including Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Peshawar by installing large TV screens there, the ex-premier led a rally from Rawalpindi to the main venue of his gathering. Following the past practice, PTI chairman in his address lashed out at the ruling coalition for allegedly plundering the country and questioned the state institutions that how they allowed the corrupt to rule the country?

“I question the institutions whether I am the only one responsible to raise voice against corruption. Whether this Pakistan doesn’t belong to you,” he said.

“Whether you cannot understand that the national kitty will ruin when you allow the thieves to sit over it,” he asserted.

The PTI chairman said the judiciary and the “neutrals” will be answerable to God for what they had done. “God will ask judges, ‘I gave you status to establish justice, did you do that or not … Did you bring powerful under the law or not?

n Imran says has not come out to defeat institutions n Pledges to defeat the corrupt in by-elections

n Questions is he the only one responsible to raise voice against corruption n Maryam says IMF doesn’t trust Pakistan anymore due to Imran’s wrongdoings n Urges masses to vote for PML-N for stable Pakistan

He said that the incumbent ruling parties wanted to see him confronting the judiciary and the Army but they should know that he would live and die in Pakistan. “We need a strong Army.” He said that he called off his May 25 protest long march fearing unrest in the country. “I took the decision to postpone the sit-in because I have to live and die in Pakistan.”

Khan claimed that a sea of people had come out on roads to join his protest and resolved that the people of Pakistan would not accept this “imported government” that had been brought into power through a US conspiracy.

Khan took some intervals in his speech only to show some video footages of the leadership of ruling PPP and PML-N how they have been blaming each other in the past.

He reiterated his stance that the ruling parties have got an NRO-2 by amending the NAB law. He said that it was the duty of the judiciary to safeguard the rule of law in the country and the apex court should take a suo motu notice on amendments in the accountability law.

At the end, Khan asked his workers whether they were ready for a struggle against this government and warned them of rigging during the upcoming by-polls in Punjab, saying that “the umpires” stand by the government’s side.

“We have to defeat these thieves despite their umpires,” he added.

The main political leadership of PTI including KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan also addressed the gathering besides former interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

Meanwhile, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, while addressing party workers in the PP-167 constituency, in Lahore, accused PTI chairman Imran Khan of looting the mandate of the people of Punjab by handing over the charge to his “puppet” Usman Buzdar. “Punjab is a province of over 120 million people and Farah Bibi — a close aide of former first lady Bushra Bibi — was imposed on the province.

She claimed that Ibrahim Maneka, the son of Bushra Bibi, had become billionaire during the last four years by getting kickbacks from the contractors. She went on to say that Maneka used to collect ‘commission’ for issuance of the tenders of the Punjab government.

She also claimed that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) told the coalition government that it does not trust Pakistan anymore because of the wrongdoings of “fitna” Imran Khan.

She termed the agreement signed with the Fund by Imran Khan as a bad deal, and said that the former prime minister took a U-turn by breaching the clauses that Pakistan agreed with the global lender.

Maryam also claimed that PML-N supporters from a single constituency present in Green Town are more compared to the number of people attending Imran Khan’s rally at the Parade ground in Islamabad.

Maryam said that the coalition government had to make some decisions with a heavy heart, including increasing the prices of petroleum products, because of the wrongdoings of the “fitna” Khan.

She further added that if Khan had left something in the reserves, the coalition government would have provided relief to the people.

“They [PTI] thought that Maryam would not come out to address the public gathering because of the rising inflation, but I want to tell them that I will stand with the people when times are tough,” she asserted.

Taking a jibe at the former prime minister’s statement regarding him not being elected to know the price of potatoes and tomatoes, the PML-N leader said: “I am not as insensitive as him [Imran Khan] that I would say I am not here to know the price of essentials.” “I am here to know the prices and to stand by the people,” she said.

Speaking on behalf of the coalition government, Maryam said that the incumbent parties have a “responsibility” to take people out of the difficult times even though these problems were not created by them. She reiterated that PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and PM Shehbaz Sharif will take the country out of the crisis by working hard.

“We [coalition government-led by PML-N] will try to eliminate all issues created by ‘fitna’ Khan,” she assured the people. Addressing the people, Maryam said that she has come in front of the people to seek help and support for PML-N. “Fitna Khan tried hard to create a Sri Lanka-like situation in Pakistan; however, his plan did not succeed because the people had faith in the lion (PML-N),” she said.

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