ISLAMABAD  -  Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz President Shehbaz Sharif said on Monday his party went to the parliament to protest ‘rigging’ in the July 25 general elections.

“We went to the parliament to safeguard democracy and not to validate massively rigged July 25 elections,” he said while addressing the PML-N parliamentary meeting at a farmhouse in Chak Shahzad after taking oath as MNA. He also expressed his resolve to go to any extent to expose stealing of the public mandate.

Shehbaz said the PML-N would forcefully raise the issue of rigging in the elections both inside and outside the parliament and press for its demand for constitution of a parliamentary commission and forensic audit of the elections from the platform of joint opposition. During his address, Shehbaz referred to maltreatment of ex-PM Nawaz Sharif in jail and the way he was brought to a NAB court in an armoured personnel carrier (APC). He said it was ‘disgusting and unfair’ to treat the three-time prime minister of the country this way.

Shehbaz, who has served as chief minister of Punjab thrice, said his party had rejected the election results due to blatant rigging on July 25 night, but decided to join the parliament in protest, and save democratic institutions from any harm.

He said that by taking oath PML-N lawmakers expressed their solidarity and commitment to the country and its democratic institutions, but it does not mean that they would back out of their ‘genuine’ concerns about vote rigging. He said the PML-N would take the issue to its logical end. He said the PML-N would remain within legal and constitutional limits while lodging protest in and outside the parliament for which the joint opposition would be devising a strategy.

Shehbaz said they would be fully participating in elections for the offices of speaker and deputy speaker on August 15 and leader of the house on August 17. He said they would contact smaller parties and independent candidates to vote for their candidates for these slots and would not let the things pass on unchallenged. He asked the party MPs to stay united and committed to the cause of democracy and vote for opposition candidates for these slots.

Shehbaz reiterated that he would stand by opposition parties, play his due role to strengthen democracy and have the massive rigging in the July 25 elections investigated. He said that elections were rejected by almost all parties, even those now part of the ruling coalition.

He said that they would go to any extent to trace the causes of massive rigging in the elections. He said that probe into the matter by a parliamentary commission and forensic audit of elections were demands of the joint opposition for which they would lodge a strong protest in and outside the parliament.

Describing production of Nawaz in a NAB court in an APC as unfair, he said the person who rendered matchless services to transform Pakistan into an economic power deserved a much better treatment. He said Nawaz should be given due respect. He expressed the hope that authorities concerned would be cautious in future and give Nawaz due respect and facilities during his movement from jail to the court.