LAHORE: PML-N leader and former prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, on Thursday alleged that Pakistan’s government institutions are “being used to interfere in Senate elections”.
In a press conference, alongside former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal, party spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, and Senator Hafiz Abdul Kareem, Abbasi explained that members of his party have been receiving phone calls urging them to change their votes during the election of the Senate’s chairperson and deputy chair.
“Once again, an attempt is being made today to make the election of the Senate chairman controversial,” he said. “There’s still time to hold the Senate chairman election tomorrow in accordance with the Constitution.”
“This election used to be [held] in a pleasant environment and a Senate chairman was elected after everyone was in agreement,” he added, noting that cracks were made in 2018 to make the election and the upper house of the Parliament — the Senate — “controversial”.
“It’s unfortunate that people whose party didn’t have any representation in that province were elected in the Senate elections 2018 and a person whose party didn’t even exist was made the Senate chairman,” Abbasi said.
“At that time, the PML-N and its allies had a clear majority and was in the government but a situation that was created at that time — that I had mentioned as the prime minister — over how there was rigging in the elections and how the country’s [upper] House was maligned.”
He said he would avoid going to the Senate for as long as he was the prime minister “because I didn’t consider him [Senate chairman] the representative of the people of Pakistan”.
“All of Pakistan knows whatever has happened in the new election and who gave and received Rs700 million,” he added. “It’s unfortunate that the country’s prime minister first gives the ticket against Rs700 million and then rescinds it due to pressure from his own party.
“He gets him elected as an independent, calls him to his office, and then puts a leash of his party on him. That Rs700-million leash is a slap in the face of Pakistani people,” Abbasi stated.
Senator Kareem, who was also present in the press conference, said he had received phone calls on March 6 and 7, wherein he was told to support the PTI government’s candidate.
“The first call came on my WhatsApp on March 6, then on March 7. On March 9, I got a call at 12:06pm,” Kareem noted.
“I spoke on the last call I received wherein I was told to support the government’s candidate and not Gillani,” he said, referring to Yousaf Raza Gillani, the former prime minister and the candidate fielded by the Opposition’s anti-government coalition under the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) banner.
“I just told them about what has happened to the country. How we can support [the government’s candidate]? We are with Nawaz Sharif,” he added.