KARACHI – Expressing strong concerns over the questions being asked by returning officers (ROs) from election candidates, MQM chief Altaf Hussain said Friday the ROs were humiliating the politicians and demanded the electoral body to delay elections by 15 to 30 days to make a thorough scrutiny of the nomination papers and creation of an environment suitable for holding elections in the country.

Altaf expressed these views while addressing a telephonic press conference at Lal Qila Ground Azizabad here on Friday. The MQM chief said delaying elections by 15 to 30 days would hardly make any difference.

He said the former government had completed its tenure and the eyes of the whole world were on Pakistan’s electoral process but several incidents during the scrutiny of candidate’s nomination papers were putting a question mark on transparency of upcoming general elections in the country.

Criticising the conduct of returning officers, he said ROs had the authority to clear or reject a candidate’s nomination papers, but during the scrutiny, ROs were asking strange questions about the candidate’s personal life and religion.

He raised the point that papers of many suspects involved in Asghar Khan case had been cleared while the candidates who had no illegal charge against them were being disqualified over minor issues.

“I am not well-informed where the Pakistan ideology was written and even don’t know the history of Pakistan ideology, so I request the Supreme Court and Pakistan parliament to explain the ideology of Pakistan,” Altaf added.

He suggested establishment of a committee that would comprise members of political and religious parties to design the interview process of the candidates under the supervision of the returning officers. Talking about the delimitation in Karachi, he said redrawing of electoral constituencies in Karachi was undemocratic, unconstitutional and an attempt to steal the MQM mandate.

Speaking about the presence of Taliban in Karachi, Altaf said he was ridiculed when he warned against the dangers of Talibanisation in Karachi. He said it was now an established fact that Taliban had taken over several areas in Karachi and they were even holding a parallel judicial system to exert themselves.

The MQM chief further added that a handful of criminals were holding Lyari people hostage. Two years ago Urdu-speaking people were killed by these criminals in a barbaric manner after verifying their identities. Their bodies were cut into pieces and videos were also released of the horrific acts. “We sent those videos to judges of the superior judiciary but nothing was done,” he claimed.

Altaf said MQM was fully prepared for general elections.

To another question about the law and order situation in the country, he said Rangers and police should demolish Taliban dens in Karachi so that voters could exercise their right without any fear.

MQM Co-ordination Committee Deputy Convenor Dr Farooq Sattar, Anis Qaim Khani, Dr Nusrat, Nasreen Jalil, Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Mustafa Kamal, Raza Haroon, Dr Sagheer, Wasay Jalil and others were also present on the occasion.