RAWALPINDI - Declaring the 2018 general election the most rigged one in the history of Pakistan, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday demanded formation of a parliamentary commission to probe the alleged rigging.

He was speaking to the media outside Adiala jail after meeting with his incarcerated family members, former premier Nawaz Sharif, niece Maryam Nawaz and Capt (r) Muhammad Safdar, and his party fellow Muhammad Hanif Abbasi.

Reacting to Shehbaz’s demand, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf on Thursday agreed to the formation of a parliamentary commission to probe alleged rigging of the elections. Talking to a private TV channel, PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said they were ready to form a parliamentary commission to probe the matter. Chaudhry said they had no objection to the commission and were ready to investigate the allegations.

In his talk, the PML-N chief said “All opposition parties... gathered outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and staged a protest, demanding constitution of a commission to probe rigging in the general election.”

Shehbaz was flanked on the occasion by former information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, former provincial law minister Rana Sannullah and MNA Hamza Shahbaz.

He clarified that he could not attend the first [Wednesday’s] protest of the opposition alliance due to a flight cancellation caused by bad weather.

“Let the people say what they want to say but I am telling you clearly there is no other reason but the bad weather which stopped me from participating in the protest,” he said, adding that the opposition parties would continue agitation over the rigging issue.

He said that his brother and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif did not want to introduce the politics of chaos and unrest but raising the voice against injustices and rigging was their right.

Without taking the name of PTI leader Jahangir Tareen, he alleged that some people kept hovering in an aeroplane with bags full of money to buy politicians across the country.

“Neither I nor the PML-N will set up a ‘political market’ to buy the loyalties of the winning candidates as it will be tantamount to blackening one’s face,” he said.

The PML-N president said that rigging was not done only on the polling day but a massive pre-poll rigging was also reported from different areas.

He said that the PML-N leadership and workers were victimised before elections by implicating them in cases of terrorism. “Tens of thousands of workers of the PML-N were sent to jails,” he added.

Both winners and losers of the elections [from opposition parties] are wondering and protesting together against rigging, he said.

“Voices are being raised not only inside the country but the electronic and print media of other countries are also raising questions on the transparency of the polls,” he said.

Shehbaz Sharif said the opposition parties including the PML-N were asking for the formation of a parliamentary commission to probe rigging in the polls. “The commission must comprise members of all the parliamentary parties,” he added.

He said the commission must probe why the result transmission system (RTS) crashed at the last minute and why the polling agents were kicked out of the polling stations. It should also be investigated why and who slowed down the vote casting process, he added.

“The nation has the right to know all about this,” he said.

Shehbaz said that the joint opposition would go to the National Assembly. “We will definitely step into the NA but not to congratulate the government but to raise our voice against rigging and demand investigation,” he said.



Meeting with jailed family

Shehbaz said he met with the incarcerated Sharifs in the jail and their morale was very high. He said that “Mian Nawaz Sharif has rendered a big sacrifice for the nation by returning from the UK and landing in the jail”.

He said, “Nawaz Sharif wanted to restore the respect of the ballot. We all are united under his wise leadership and there is no division within the party. Our narrative is to give respect to the vote.”

PML-N leader said the former PM has requested the nation to offer special prayers for him and his family at this time of trial.

“Nawaz Sharif will not bow down before anyone. He has one thing in his mind and that is the stability and integrity of Pakistan,” he said.

“The PML-N has secured more seats in Punjab as well as in the centre and we are not playing on the back foot. Everyone knows why our party could not form the government in Punjab,” he said.

When asked if Nawaz was interested in signing an NRO to get out of the jail and go abroad, Shehbaz replied, “Can the world live without discussion or negotiations? [But] neither does anyone want to give an NRO nor does anyone seek it,” he said.

Shehbaz said all the detainees of the Sharif family are high in spirit and would not budge even an inch from their narrative.

He said that Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and others would challenge their sentences in the Avenfield reference in the apex courts as it was their legal and constitutional right.

PML-N leader said he also met with Muhammad Hanif Abbasi, who was sent out of election race just four days before polling through his conviction in the ephedrine smuggling case.

Earlier, other family members, ex-ministers and PML-N leaders and heads of different political parties also met with Sharifs in Adiala jail.

Prominent among them were PML-N senior leader Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, Senator Chaudhry Tanvir, ex-MNA Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, former railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, ANP leader Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, PkMAP chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Chaudhry Barjees Tahir, ex-provincial minister Raja Ashfaq Sarwar, Mushahid Hussain Syed, Rana Tanvir, Barrister Danial Chauhdry, MNA Malik Abid Raza and Senator Pervaiz Rashid

The jail authorities did not allow Senators Mushahid Ullah Khan and Usman Kakar to meet with the Sharifs as the meeting time had expired.

Jail security officials including Deputy Superintended Kamran misbehaved with media persons who showed up for coverage. Journalists staged a protest demo against the jail authorities and demanded caretaker Punjab chief minister to take action against jail high-ups.

Meanwhile, three blind persons namely Bilal Javed, Salman and Arslan, associated with Bright Ways Foundation, had also arrived from Lahore to meet with Nawaz Sharif but they were not allowed to meet him.



Media talk of visiting leaders

Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, during an interaction with the media, said that Imran Khan was a stooge of the establishment. He said that Khan hatched conspiracies to grab the seat of the prime minister.

He said that no efforts were underway to sign an NRO with the government for the release of Sharifs. He lashed out at Adiala Jail Superintendent Saeed Ullah Gondal saying he is behaving like a “Mr Yes” to the caretaker government by ridiculing the visitors who wanted to meet with the Sharifs.

Marriyum Aurangzeb said that Sharifs were in high spirit and they were in good health. She demanded the jail authorities and the caretaker government allow the PML-N workers and leaders to meet with the Sharifs thrice in a week instead of only on Thursdays.

She said that the 2018 general election was rigged massively and the opposition parties were up in arms against the rigging. She advised media not to listen to statements of others as the party had appointed her to give statements on behalf of Nawaz Sharif.

“Three-time elected prime minister of Pakistan Mian Nawaz Sharif is facing difficulties in the jail as the government has not provided him with facilities,” said ANP leader Ghulam Ahmed Bilour.

He said the moral of the deposed premier was high and he would not give up. He said that the PTI government would not complete its term if the Election Commission of Pakistan did not hold election afresh.

Senator Usman Kakar condemned the jail authorities for not allowing him to meet with the Sharifs. He said he had applied at all legal forums for getting permission for the meeting but all turned down his request.

“We cannot even meet with the jail superintendent as he is under the immense pressure of the caretaker government,” he said. He said that “we are not trying to meet Indian spy Kalbhushan Jhadav but a [Pakistani] politician”.

Mehmood Khan Achakzai lashed out at the media persons when he was asked about the absence of Shehbaz from the protest of the opposition parties in Islamabad. “I am here to meet with Mian Nawaz Sharif and you people are running after Mian Shehbaz Sharif,” he said.



Shehbaz calls for parliamentary probe into ‘rigging’