Days after much-controversial Senate elections, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has demanded the resignation of Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and all other members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad alongside Information Minister Shibli Faraz and Fawad Chaudhry, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said the election watchdog failed to hold transparent Senate elections; therefore, the commission should be disbanded.
“It was a longstanding demand of the prime minister that the power of money should not be used to influence elections,” said Mehmood, adding that PM Imran Khan wanted to introduce open ballot for the same reason.
Shafqat said the election watchdog “completely failed” to fulfill its responsibility, adding that people have lost faith in the ECP. According to Shafqat, a new election commission should be established through parliament so that everyone could trust it.
Shafqat alleged that ECP failed to play the role of “neutral umpire”, reiterating his demand for its resgination.
The education minister claimed that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was the “most popular party of Pakistan” but it still didn’t have confidence in the election watchdog. He claimed the ruling party was not the only one that didn’t trust the ECP.
“If you ask other parties, even they don’t have confidence in the ECP,” he said. “The ECP should collectively resign and a new commission should be made which enjoys the trust of all parties.”
The minister also held the election watchdog responsible for the irregularities in the Daska by-polls that were held last month. The by-polls were later declared null and void by the ECP as it ordered re-election in the constituency on March 18 that was later changed to April 10.
On the other hand, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a joint opposition alliance, has also not been happy with the ECP over protracted foreign funding case against the PTI. It had also held a protest outside the watchdog office earlier this year.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had called out the ECP for “protecting those who made money by holding the Senate elections through secret ballot” after the PTI nominee Abdul Hafeez Shaikh lost to the opposition’s Yousaf Raza Gillani on the Islamabad Senate seat.
Shaikh had lost the election even though the PTI enjoyed majority in the National Assembly. The upset had irked the PM and his party and subsequently resulted in attacks on the ECP.
The PM had said accused the ECP of “damaging democracy” by allowing secret ballot in the Senate election without a constitutional amendment.
“You have a big role, your biggest responsibility is [holding] honest and transparent elections,” he had said, calling it out for its support for secret ballot in the Supreme Court.
Subsequently, the ECP issued a rebuttal, urging the prime minister to respect the state institutions. In a written statement, the commission said that it has “never come under any sort of pressure and God willing, will not in future as well”. “We cannot ignore the law and the Constitution to please anyone,” said the ECP in its statement.