LAHORE - The government has warned that general elections could be delayed due to differences over delimitation issue, and urged all the political parties to support it for passing a requisite law.

Saad Rafique Saturday criticised opposition PPP and PTI for their ‘unsupportive’ attitude, reminding them of the November 10 deadline given by the election authorities for the legislation to ensure on-time elections.

He was speaking to the media after he, along with some other senior PML-N leaders, called on ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif at his Raiwind residence to discuss different issues – especially the future line of action in the face of challenges to the party and the Sharif family.

National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayyaz Sadiq and Abdul Qadir Baloch accompanied Saad to the meeting – which also deliberated on the delimitation of constituencies, rifts in the party and initiation of an early election campaign, according to the party sources.

The doves among them reportedly attempted persuading the party chief to keep a cool head on all the controversial issues, though it could not be known if they succeeded in their effort to convince Nawaz – who seems to be hell bent on taking on all those whom he considers responsible for his ouster.

Talking to the media after the meeting, Saad Rafique invited all the political parties to support the government on issue of delimitation of constituencies necessitated after the national census.

He said that the election commission have warned the government that they would not be able to conduct elections on time unless the parliament amends the constitutional clause regarding delimitation of constituencies by the November 10 deadline.

The minister complained that the attitude of Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was not democratic at all. He added that it was desirable in a parliamentary system that political parties keep a certain level of interaction with each other.

“Any politician refusing to do so should not call himself a politician,” he said in reference to PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s refusal to meet Nawaz.

He urged Zardari to play his role in the constitutional amendment regarding the national census as, he added, it was the most urgent thing to do at the moment.

The minister also asked PTI chief Imran Khan to sit with the government to settle the issue of delimitations instead of addressing public rallies.

He said those not accepting the results of national census should show a big heart. “We have accepted the census results though Punjab’s share of seats has been curtailed”, he added.

National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq said on the occasion, “Some parties are concerned over delimitation of constituencies and some people do not wish a democratic Pakistan to thrive.”

‘Unfair’ treatment

Saad Rafique claimed that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was being unfairly treated while its leadership is being illegally trapped.

He lamented that while the judges who had supported the dictators and the martial law were seen of with honour on retirement, none of the elected prime ministers received this treatment.

Answering a question, Saad said that Nawaz Sharif was attending the court despite having reservations on the whole process.

“Despite reservations, Nawaz Sharif came back to Pakistan to face the courts. There is no question of his not appearing before the courts,” he added.

Reacting to a question, Saad said there were no major differences between Mian Nawaz Sharif and his younger brother Shehbaz Sharif but both had their own style of doing politics.

NA Speaker Ayyaz Sadiq also said that Nawaz Sharif will continue to appear before the court. He said the talk of not giving security to the ex-prime minister was not appropriate.

To a question, he said there was no such move on the cards to bring the army and the judiciary within the ambit of new accountability law. He however declared there was no space for a technocratic setup in the constitution.

Answering a question about Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, the speaker said he was sick and under treatment at a London hospital.

‘Sour sweets’

Saad Rafique in his media talk alleged that Asif Ali Zardari was working on some unknown agenda, unlike Imran Khan whose agenda was known to the people.

The federal minister also admitted that the advice given to Nawaz Sharif in the past about not meeting the PPP leader was wrong. He, however, did not name the person who gave this advice to the party chief.

This realisation has come after Zardari’s repeated refusals to meet Nawaz despite best efforts from the PML-N side. This also vindicates the PPP chief’s stance that he would not be meeting the PML-N leader at any cost.

Saad however said that Nawaz Sharif was not desperate to meet Zardri, reminding one of the hungry fox who declared the grapes sour after failed attempts to get hold of them.

“Is he (Zardari) distributing sweets? We don’t need the sweets he is distributing as we don’t have a strong stomach to digest them,” he remarked with an expression on his face which made one wonder if it was a smile or grin.

The minister said that contrary to Zardari’s claims, Nawaz in the past had put his own popularity at stake to save the Pakistan People’s Party government.

“Mr Zardari shouldn’t be complaining against the PML-N.” In fact, it was Asif Zardari who went back on the Charter of Democracy, he said.

“The PML-N doesn’t need crutches to carry on, as we depend on our voters and the masses will elect the PML-N again in the next general elections,” Saad said.

PPP Secretary Information Ch Manzoor reacted by saying that Asif Zardari had “closed the shop” offering sweets to Mian Nawaz Sharif which would please his taste buds. He said PPP had never acted upon anybody’s agenda; it rather stood with the democracy and the constitution.

He also posed some counter questions in reaction to Saad’s remarks about the present conduct of the PPP leader.

“Whose agenda was he (Nawaz) carrying forward when he refused to meet Asif Ali Zardari [who wanted to meet him only to offer condolence over the demise of his younger brother]?” he asked.

Manzoor also made a reference to the PML-N chief’s stance on the memogate and reminded the people of time when Nawaz Sharif reached the court wearing a black coat.