ISLAMABAD - The Election Commission of Pakistan and federal and provincial caretaker governments once again came under fire in the Senate on Monday for failing to put in place adequate measures to protect candidates contesting the general election scheduled for July 25.
The upper house, which met with Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani in the chair, offered fateha for the innocent people who were martyred in the Mastung bomb blast. The Senate put the routine agenda in abeyance in respect of those martyred.
After powerful speeches by members of various political parties on a condolence reference, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution condemning the horrific terrorist attack in Mastung which had resulted in the martyrdom of Mir Siraj Raisani, leader of BAP, and other 149 innocent people and injuries to scores of others.
The resolution tabled by Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Sherry Rehman on behalf of others said that Raisani was a brave and sincere Pakistani and the loss of his life was unfortunate. The House also expressed serious concerns on the recent spate of attacks on political parties in the run-up to the general election.
It urged the ECP, federal and provincial caretaker governments to take steps for the protection of political parties. The House also prayed for the departed souls and fortitude for the relatives to bear the irreparable loss.
Speaking on the condolence reference with regard to Mastung tragedy, former Senate chairman, Mian Raza Rabbani of Pakistan People’s Party said that it was the caretaker government’s job to not only hold free, fair and transparent elections but also provide security to political parties, candidates and political workers. He said that the lives of the leaders of six major political parties were directly under threat. He said that this will create political instability and mayhem in the country.
Rabbani said that the preferences of the caretaker government were weak and instead of resolving the genuine issues faced by the public, it seems more interested in arresting political workers. He regretted that while the country's economy and visa policy had been discussed in the last three meetings of the NSC, the subject of law and order was never made part of the conversation.
"The interim prime minister and the military leadership must have been aware of the National Counter Terrorism Authority's report that stated that leaders of all political parties were facing security threats," he said wondering why the provinces were merely sent letters regarding the security situation. He also criticized the absence of the caretaker interior minister from the session and wondered whether the law minister would instead answer the House's questions regarding the Mastung attack. "Will the interior minister again say that those who were attacked were not on the list of those facing security threats?" he asked. Rabbani also complained that while orders to arrest political workers were "being implemented swiftly", there was a silence on the Mastung incident.
Referring to the participation of members of banned outfits in the elections, Rabbani said that a new phenomenon was emerging on the model of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad and the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal. "The interior minister should reveal how members of the banned organizations were allowed to contest the elections," he said.
"How the names of members of the banned outfits were removed from the Fourth Schedule?"
With reference to the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Rabbani observed that 150 members of the "party that staged a sit-in at Faizabad" are candidates for NA seats. “Members of Allahu Akbar Tehreek are also contesting. What will the atmosphere of the parliament look like if even 25 of such people are elected?" he questioned.
Rabbani also lamented that the state was still continuing on its past course and warned that "engineered elections are ringing alarm bells for the federation".
He complained that the PPP leadership was being hindered from campaigning.
"The ECP is sleeping," he said, asking why no action was being taken even though the PPP had named the persons pressurising its candidates to switch loyalties.
PML-N’s Pervaiz Rasheed said the candidates could not be expected to run peaceful election campaigns when "people from the Fourth Schedule are being allowed to contest the polls". "Be afraid of the day when those people will be present in this House" he warned. He claimed that while 10,000 policemen were deployed for the arrest of Nawaz Sharif, "the man who had come to surrender with his daughter voluntarily" while those responsible for the Peshawar and Mastung attacks "are roaming freely". He claimed that 16,000 political workers were arrested during the crackdown ahead of Sharif's arrival, 99 percent of whom belonged to the PML-N. "What are the state's priorities?" he asked, adding that the state has decided whom to suppress and whom to support.
"There is a need to change these priorities," he warned. "Where do our enemies find the person willing to wear a suicide jacket?" Rasheed asked. "Who has fostered this narrative? Was it Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto, who made policies to bring such people into parliament?"
Addressing the state, he said that enough blood has been spilled in the country and there was a need to "change your philosophy".
JI’s Mushtaq Khan said Raisani was a loyal citizen who had become a symbol of love for Pakistan. Senator Kabeer Shahi in his remarks termed the Mastung attack the worst incident in Pakistan's history. Apparently criticizing the lack of coverage given to it, he complained that the media had been "sold off" to various parties. Shahi also divulged that reports had been received of four suicide bombers who had entered Balochistan's Kalat and Khuzdar areas.
"If there's knowledge of the suicide bombers entering the country, why they are not caught?" he asked. Mian Ateeq of MQM-P said that many external factors including the Indian spy agency RAW were involved in sabotage activities in Balochistan. He said that politicians also have the responsibility to sit together to find a way to resolve the complex problems being faced by the country.