ISLAMABAD - Former president Asif Ali Zardari yesterday said the federal government wanted to snatch provinces rights. Zardari, who is also the Pakistan People’s Party co-chairman, said Prime Minister Imran Khan was following former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

“He wants to concentrate power in himself while we need national unity to fight coronavirus threat,” he said while speaking to PPP Central Punjab President Qamar Zaman Kaira over the telephone. Zardari warned the coming days will be more critical for the country. He regretted that government was busy in fighting with the opposition instead of COVID-19.

“The incumbent federal government has ruined the national consensus,” the ailing former president said. Zardari said 18th Amendment was passed with an aim to give financial rights to the provinces and make the federation stronger.

“The incumbent government wants to take back financial liberty of the provinces,” he maintained.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had said the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf-led federal government did not want to completely roll back the 18th Amendment. Speaking in the Senate, he had said the government doesn’t aim to do away with the constitutional amendment but its “weak points should be reviewed and addressed.”

PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also criticised the government yesterday saying it was not serious in the parliamentary business.

He tweeted: “2nd day National Assembly session on #COVID19Pakistan. PM @ImranKhanPTI still hasnt attended the session & briefed Parliament on his government’s response to the crisis. Let alone actually answer questions & be held accountable. We’re not asking much. Just for him to do his job.”

Separately yesterday, PPP leader Taj Haider said RTS was not responsible for not taking signatures of 95% of polling agents of candidates on Result Forms 45 after throwing them out of polling stations.

Haider, Incharge of PPP Central Election Cell, said: “It was unfortunate that the alleged RTS failure issue has once again been brought to the forefront by the Election Commission of Pakistan and a blame game has started to cover up the most obvious and blatant rigging systematically carried out in Election 2018.” Taj Haider pointed out that IT system saves time and ensures transparency but if the inputs are rigged and manipulated the output results would be no better.

 Even if, as alleged RTS had failed, conventional methods of preparing provisional and final results could have easily worked but only if counting of votes was done in presence of polling agents and forms 45 were signed by them.

It is a pity that only 128 forms 45 out of more than 78000 have been signed by polling agents of candidates belonging to political parties. In the case of PPP chairman Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who was contesting from 3 NA constituencies only 2 forms 45 have been signed by his polling agents in all the 3 constituencies.

He said that if ECP was seriously interested in free and fair elections, it should be looking into hurdles created for National/International observers, pressure brought upon candidates to change parties, curbs on media, census fraud and delimitations, Role of religious extremists, all of which were parts of pre-poll rigging.

“For rigging committed on polling day ECP should investigate the reasons behind its non-responsiveness on complaints, slow polling rate.” he said.

He said the alleged failure of RTS was certainly not responsible for votes found at Kutchra Kundis and inside school room desks. “It cannot be blamed for inordinate delays extending over days and days in finalizing results or the number of rejected votes in so many constituencies being higher than the winning margins,” Haider said.

Taj Haider advised the ECP to look into the shortcomings pointed out as well as forensic audits done by national and international observers in their reports. “They were not allowed entry in many polling stations, but it cannot be said that they left polling stations after seeing that they were losing,” he added.