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The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) came under severe criticism in Senate on Thursday as majority of the parties accused the top electoral watchdog of dancing to the tune of 'establishment' in order to bring a particular political party into power.

They said that crackdown on politicians particularly those belonging to Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) under some pretext is a clear indication that forthcoming general elections have already been managed to pave the way for a specific party.

Lack of security to politicians, media censorship, so-called selective accountability of politicians and allowing military inside the polling stations with powers of a magistrate, they added, will certainly make the elections controversial.

PPP Senator Raza Rabbani said that National Accountability Bureau (NAB) does not see a single corrupt person in any other party except PPP and PML-N, adding if the anti-graft body wants an across the board accountability, why it does not launch a crackdown on the 'turncoats' who have joined a particular party.

"The NAB is giving an impression that the turncoats who, have changed their loyalties and defected to a particular party, have a clean track record. People are being forced to quit their parties but the ECP is in deep slumber," he lamented.

He demanded Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani to constitute a committee of the whole house and summon chief election commissioner along with secretary ECP to brief the house on the controversies ahead of general elections to be held on July 25.

"If this remains the situation, the transparency of elections will be questioned and polls will become controversial as a particular political party is being promoted, which is in no way acceptable," he said in an obvious reference to PTI.

He also questioned why a military commander at Kasur garrison is summoning a returning officer, adding why the ECP is acting as silent spectator instead of taking the official to task as a military has nothing to do with the polls.

"Why the military is being deployed inside polling stations? Why they've been given the powers of a magistrate? Is it being done on the wish of a particular party? What will be TORs and code of conduct for the military personal? It is the prerogative of this house and the ECP must explain all this to us," he contended.

He said that inadequate security to the candidates resulted in loss of Haroon Bilour, adding the convoys of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto have also been facing security issues, but the ECP is yet to provide security to him as well as to other politicians.

"The interior minister says that there is a threat to politicians but he has not taken any measure in this regard. The media censorship is also going unnoticed...who are you to dictate us which channel we should watch," he added.

Opposition Leader in Senate Sherry Rehman said that there are issues which the ECP must resolve on war footing or else the elections will become controversial, adding the Commission should take practical measure to address the reservations of political parties.

"The way things are taking place reminds us of General Zia Ul Haq's dictatorial regime. We'd seen media censorship, forcing politics to change their loyalties and pre-poll rigging during martial regimes, but what we're seeing this time around is no different than what we witnessed during martial laws," she lamented.

Leader of the House in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq seconded the fellow senators, and said the Senate is only elected forum which should remain in session till elections are held so that it could play the role of a watchdog to ensure smooth and transparent elections.

Senator Usman Kakar of PKMAP said that the Constitution is virtually suspended, while other state institution, particularly the ECP, is getting dictations from General Headquarters (GHQ), adding the military must stop treating state institutions like institution of an occupied country.

Other senators also maintained that undemocratic powers must stop meddling into the matters related to elections, saying all time important elections are going to be held which should not be made controversial as it would be harmful for the security and stability of the country.

Meanwhile, caretaker Minister for Power Barrister Ali Zafar said Rangers are being deployed in Sindh and Balochistan to ensure supply of water to Balochistan according to its share.

Responding to a point of order raised by Jehanzeb Jamaldeni regarding unfair distribution of water by IRSA to Balochistan, he said that Balochistan was not being provided its adequate share of water due to theft.

He said IRSA had allocated the share of Balochistan for irrigation. Sindh government had convened a special session to discuss water theft issue of Balochistan, he added. He said Sindh government was of the opinion that the share of Balochistan was being stolen.

Responding to another point of order, he said a transformer would be installed in district Thatta after receipt of installing 60 meters. Currently only 10 meters have so far been installed.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2018

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