Electioneering has gained momentum in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) with Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) vice president Maryam Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari separating campaign and calling into question integrity and impartiality of the GB Election Commission ahead of Nov.15 polls.
The PPP chairman has criticised GB Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Raja Shahbaz Khan for holding a news conference in Islamabad and asked him to reveal details of "his meetings with government functionaries” during his stay in the federal capital.
Bilawal addresses party workers in Gilgit-Baltistan.
He made the demand a day after the CEC, at a news conference in Islamabad, rejected the talk of pre-poll rigging in GB and indirectly criticised the opposition parties for crying foul even before polling.
Without naming anyone, the GB CEC had said: "There are returning officers in 24 constituencies who have not seen any rigging, but they (the opposition) can see it while sitting 600km away.”
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He had said that notices had been issued to as many as 95 individuals belonging to different political parties for running election campaigns in GB in violation of the code of conduct. He said those issued notices included Bilawal and federal ministers Murad Saeed and Ali Amin Gandapur.
Reacting to the CEC’s news conference, Bilawal said it was the responsibility of the CEC to hold free and fair elections in GB but "he is holding meetings in Islamabad and addressing a press conference against me.”
The PPP chairman expressed surprise over issuance of a notice to him by the election commission, saying he did not hold any public office and had the right to run the election campaign of his party.
"The election commissioner is facilitating the prime minister and the federal ministers in violating elections laws and is not protecting the right of the people to participate in free and fair elections,” he alleged.
Maryam Nawaz during her visit to Gilgit-Baltistan.
Bilawal turned his guns towards Prime Minister Imran Khan and criticised him for talking about his government’s decision to give provisional status of province to the GB. He said it was former president Asif Zardari who had granted interim status of province to GB and appointed a governor and a chief minister back in 2009. He claimed that Khan was "ignorant” about the ground situation in GB.
Maryam Nawaz has mostly targeted the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) government in Pakistan and Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Imran said the opposition parties have been blackmailing the government since day one to grant them amnesty. He said that the NRO given to the opposition by Pervez Musharraf had had disastrous effects on Pakistan, leading to an increase in debt liabilities.
The rally in the city of Multan was held a day after police, on orders from the government, carried out the arrests and banned the gathering, defending the move as necessary to combat the coronavirus pandemic in Pakistan.
Despite the threat of COVID-19 and harsh weather conditions, the Gilgit-Baltistan people voted in a complete discipline manner with no reports of violence coming from any part of the region where out of 1,141 polling stations, 577 had been declared sensitive and 297 highly sensitive.
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