Several Pakistani lawmakers today expressed concerns over candidates having links with banned outfits being allowed to run in the elections, saying terrorists would enter the Parliament.
They also warned the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that allowing banned organisations to contest elections would lead to bringing the extremist elements into the mainstream.
“Terrorists were being brought inside the parliament and Parliamentarians were being sent to jails,” Senator Pervaiz Rashid of Pakistan Muslims League-Nawaz (PML-N) said, in an apparent reference to the ECP’s decision to allow some candidates having affiliation to banned groups in the July 25 elections, while former premier and party chief Nawaz Sharif was sent to Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.
“Terrorists would end up entering the parliament as candidate having links with banned outfits were being allowed to run in the elections,” he added.
Rashid, along with other lawmakers in the Senate, asked the ECP and caretaker governments in Islamabad and in provinces to ensure that July 25 general elections are held in free and fair manner.
He also said that Pakistan was put on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list last month on the issue of terror financing.
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and leading member of Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), Sherry Rehman, warned that allowing banned organisations to contest the elections will lead to bringing them into the mainstream.
“We won’t be able to breathe if these people (extremist elements) enter the Parliament,” she said.
She also drew attention of the House towards the alerts issued by the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) about the threat to leading politicians, and said that names of all leaders who were facing security threats should be provided.
Former Senate chairman and PPP leader Raza Rabbani attacked the ECP for its alleged silence over irregularities in the run-up to the polls and asked why banned groups were allowed to participate in the elections.
“Under what law has the ECP permitted banned groups to contest elections?” he asked.
In an apparent reference to PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari not being allowed to campaign at some places due to security threat and stone throwing incident at rally of former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Rabbani said “leaders of the PPP and the PML-N were being targeted and the ECP was doing nothing.”
“Is the ECP sleeping?” he asked.
He also objected to the deployment of the armed forces in the polling process.
“At first, the ECP kept saying that soldiers would be deployed outside polling stations. Now it’s saying they will be also be deployed inside. What is the reason for their being stationed inside?” he asked.
“The ECP should tell us why they eventually decided to deploy soldiers within polling stations. And if they will be inside, what will their function be?” he said.
Rabbani also spoke about restrictions being placed on the media.
The ECP had said that it was ready to hold elections in free and fair manner, and apart from other formalities, it had also competed the printing of ballot papers.
It had said that around 210 million ballot papers have been printed for national and provincial assemblies.