ISLAMABAD - The lawmakers in the Senate on Thursday accused the Election Commission of Pakistan of not providing a level-playing field to all the political parties in the July 25 election and said that a ground was being prepared only to bring a single party into power — an obvious reference to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

At least two Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) stalwarts criticised the ECP for becoming a silent spectator on all election violations and questioned the alleged role of army and the National Accountability in the entire election process. They said that the anti-corruption watchdog was only victimising the two parties—PPP and Pakistan Muslim League –Nawaz (PML-N) and this used to give an impression that a ground was being prepared to bring a specific party into power.

They said that crackdown on politicians particularly those belonging to PPP and PML-N under the pretext of accountability was a clear indication that upcoming general elections had already been compromised. 

They argued that the failure of ECP in provision of security to the politicians, restrictions, so-called selective accountability of politicians, the decision of the commission to deploy army inside the polling stations with powers of a magistrate will certainly make the elections controversial.

Former chairman Senate and PPP Senator Raza Rabbani said that he July 25 elections had been made controversial in the beginning due to "meddling and the Elections Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) failure to perform its constitutional role.”  He said that NAB did not see a single corrupt person in any other party except PPP and PML-N. “If the anti-corruption watchdog wants an across the board accountability, why it does not launch a crackdown on the ‘turncoats’ who have joined a particular part,” he pointed out.

“The NAB is giving an impression that the turncoats who, have changed their loyalties and defected to a particular party, had a clean track record,” he said and added that the people were being forced to quit their parties but the ECP was in deep slumber. He said that a particular party was being promoted, which was in no way acceptable,” he again said in a direct reference to PTI.

Rabbani went on to say that a military commander at Kasur garrison had summoned a returning officer and questioned why the ECP was acting as silent spectator instead taking the official to task as a military has nothing to do with the polls.  

“Why the military is being deployed inside the 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 that the ECP must explain all this to us,” he said in a single breath.

Rabbani also claimed that PPP candidates were being pressured into either to switch over to other parties or to withdraw their candidatures. He said that defence minister should come in the house and explain the position, he said. He said that secretary ECP secretary must explain his earlier statement about meddling in elections.

Former chairman Senate said that how ECP could take the decision to extend the voting time on the request of a single party.

He said that inadequate security to the candidates resulted in loss of Awami National Party (ANP) candidate Haroon Bilour, adding the convoys of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto had also been facing security issues, but the ECP was yet to provide security to him as well as to other politicians.  He further said that interior minister earlier said that there was a threat to politicians but he has not taken any measure in this regard. He said that the censorship on was also going unnoticed.

Rabbani demanded of 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 all these controversies ahead of general elections.

The Opposition Leader in Senate Sherry Rehman said that the ECP must resolve these issues on war footing, address reservations of the political parties otherwise the election would become controversial. She said that the current happenings reminded them of General Ziaul Haq’s dictatorial regime. “We’d seen media censorship, pressures on the politicians to change their loyalties and pre-poll rigging during martial regimes, but what we are seeing this time around is no different from martial law regimes,” she argued.

The leader of the house in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq endorsed his colleagues and said the Senate is only elected forum which should remain in session till elections were held so that it could play the role of a watchdog to ensure smooth and transparent elections.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) Senator Usman Kakar said that the constitution had been virtually suspended while other state institution particularly the ECP was getting dictation from general headquarters (GHQ).  Other lawmakers also participated in the discussion and stressed that an important election should not be made controversial.